Sunday, October 04, 2015

"Traditional Mass"? Or "Extraordinary Form," "Tridentine Mass", etc.?


The following is a reply to a recent comment in my other blog, Willamette Valley Latin Mass Society.  Please refer to that comment before reading this reply.

Since that other blog is mainly intended solely for the practical purpose of communicating  Mass times for my local area, and since Blogger won't allow me to post such a long reply in the comments section anyway, I am posting it as an independent post here on Ite ad Thomam, where followers can continue the discussion.

Dear Fr. Jaspers,

Thank you for your comment and for your opinion.  Respectfully, here are my two cents as a private person, and a layman.

You are right: I decided to put the WVLMS page together, not to make a theological statement, but just to communicate the times and places of the Masses in question within the Willamette Valley.  But now that you bring it up, I would like to take up this excellent opportunity to think about these issues more deeply together with you.

Of course, aside from any ideological consideration, to communicate Mass times for the ordo antiquus, I have to make a choice as to what to call it.  Without a term, people have no way of knowing what I'm talking about.  Naturally I have to decide on a term according to the custom of those who use the page, who are mostly people who are attached to it and who will travel long distances accross the Willammette Valley to attend these Masses.  And given that I have several names as options, I have to use my theological reasoning and my conscience---which I have striven to inform according to Catholic teaching and sound theological reasoning---to decide which term is the best.

In trying to figure out what term to use, three main terms come to mind: (1) "Tridentine Mass," (2) "Extraordinary Form (EF for short)," and (3) "Traditional Mass" or "Traditional Latin Mass (TLM)," and its variants.   But I think the terms "Tridentine Mass" and "Extraordinary Form" are a bit unfortunate, for different reasons, which I will explain.  I will also (4) address your comment that the novus ordo, too, is traditional, and (5) will make some concluding remarks.

(1) I think using the term "Tridentine Mass" is a disservice to the cause, in a way.  One of the marvellous aspects of the ordo antiquus is its patristic origins: it connects us in a living way to our fathers in the faith, to the way they lived it.  It was the Latin Church Fathers who bequeathed this amazing gift to us, and we see their stamp in the way we worship every Sunday in the ordo antiquus (or every day, in some parishes).  But the "Tridentine Mass" terminology blurrs this reality and promotes the erroneous idea that the ordo antiquus can only be traced back to the liturgical reforms after the Council of Trent (16th century), and that before then the Roman Rite was substantially different, and that therefore the current rite that we know as the "Tridentine Mass" has relatively modern origins.  If anything it would have to be called the "Gregorian Mass" to indicate that it is much older and can be traced at least as far back as St. Gregory the Great (6th cent.), just like we say "Gregorian Chant" to indicate the Latin Patristic origins of the music that belongs to that Rite.  That terminology would also mirror our Byzantine brothers and sisters who have the Liturgy of St. Basil, the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, etc.  I would in fact prefer the terminology of the "Gregorian Mass", but alas, it is not a very common or accepted terminology, and it is in fact already used to refer to something else (the 30 Gregorian Masses devotion).

(2) As far as 'Extraordinary Form', which, of course, is Pope Benedict's official terminology to resolve a : I am (a) a bit uncomfortable with it, to be frank, in addition to (b) the fact that it is not broad enough to encompass what we are announcing.  The reason I am (a) uncomfortable with it is not that I do not think it is wrong, or that it implies something false.  Rather, I am slightly uncomfortable with it because it misses the essence of what it describes.  It is very much a relative term that does not signify its referent on the basis of its own nature but on account of a historical accident: if the antiquus ordo happens to be extraordinary, it is only because at this moment in history the novus ordo is more common or ordinary (and that is accidental to its nature).  For most of Church history it was the ordo antiquus which has been the ordinary form.  And in fact, I hope and pray that someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, it is the antiquus ordo which is considered the ordinary form again, leaving the novus ordo as something very much extraordinary.  If that were to happen, centuries down the road of history, this century will be but a mere hiccup in the history of the Roman Rite, a strange time when Roman Catholics momentarily forgot how they ordinarily worshipped throughout history. To put it differently, for traditional Catholics to call it the 'Extraordinary Form' would be analogous to starting a political party and calling it the 'Minority Party'.  Not only would it defeat the whole goal of the cause being promoted, but actually the name would fail to capture the essence of the thing named.  I do not usually object to someone using this term (since it comes from the Pope), but I do not prefer it and I do not use it myself normally.

And (b), the term 'EF' is too narrow, and not broad enough to encompass the other Latin rites.  In fact, one of the churches that commonly has Massses that are of our interest is Holy Rosary Parish, in Portland, where the Dominicans there have several Dominican Rite Masses every month.  These Masses are not technically in the EF, because that term applies exclusively to the Roman Rite, as per Summorum Pontificum.  Rather, the Dominican Rite has no extraordinary form.  The Dominican Rite has only an ordinary form which has remained substantially unchanged throughout its history and has not been touched by the recent liturgical reform.  So if we were to announce only "EF Masses" we would be leaving out these Dominican Rite Masses, which are of interest to the TLM community in our area.

(3) So it is mainly because of these reservations (which I believe are shared by many TLM communities), I naturally lean towards using the term TLM as the normal way to refer to the ordo antiquus.  But besides the fact that the other alternatives are not good choices, I  think the primary reason for using this term is that in itself it is clear enough simply because it is the way most people have referred to it in actual practice, at least in my experience in the last 15 years attending the old rite in the USA, Canada, Mexico, and Europe.  It is the term ordinarily given to the ordo antiquus by traditional Catholics.  (And by 'traditional Catholics' I mean those of us who are attached in an exclusive way to the ordo antiquus and the mode of thinking surrounding it, and who are steeped in it enough to let it be the basis of their faith in an exclusive, or nearly exclusive way.) See for example the terminology used in websites such as Coalition in Support of Ecclesia Dei: Promoting the Traditional Latin Mass as sanctioned by Summorum Pontificum, and its widely-used Directory of Latin Masses, as well as the normal terminology in the popular blog "Rorate Caeli," and specifically its discussion on this very issue of the terminology of the ordo antiquus.  It is the way it is called in the most widely-used Latin-English missalette (see picture above), and it is the way it is called by most members of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, the Institute of Christ the King, and similar orders that are devoted to the ordo antiquus and who celebrate the vast majority of Masses in the ordo antiquus.  So it is safe to say that I can hardly be blamed for doing the same.  In fact, no one who regularly uses the information on the site---which is usually traditinal Catholics who are willing to travel throughout the Willamette Valley to attend one of these Masses---have so much as hinted to me that there might be a problem with the term.  Although in conversation and in print I have become aware of many objections regarding the other terms.

(4) Now, I must confess I was a bit surprised by your comment that the novus ordo, too, is traditional (and not just the ordo antiquus).  I think we must make distinctions here.  In all philosophical objectivity, we have to recognize that the term 'traditional' is very much an analogical term.  It obviously does not mean the same thing when I say that the ordo antiquus is 'traditional' as when you say the novus ordo is 'traditional'.  

The ordo antiquus is traditional because it is the form of worship that Roman Catholics have been 'handing down' from generation to generation for close to two millenia.  This is the way the vast majority of popes and saints in our calendar have worshipped.  St. Jerome, St. Gregory, St. Leo, St. Isidore, St. Anselm, St. Bernard, St. Francis, St. Thomas, St. Catherine, St. Pius V, St. Ignatius, St. Frances, St. Joan of Arc, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Alphonsus, St. Margaret Mary, St. John Bosco, St. Therese, St. Pius X, St. Josemaria, just to mention a few, all worshipped according to the ordo antiquus (even if in the various Latin rites), and their faiths were formed exclusively by it.  Hence, it is in the strong sense that the ordo antiquus can be called the TLM, since it refers to the Mass according to the tradition of the Latin Rites.

But the novus ordo is not 'traditional' in the sense that the ordo antiquus is traditional.  It is quite discontinuous with the tradition of the Latin Rites; a careful comparison of the prayers (and options) illustrates this amply.  So if for the sake of argument we grant that the novus ordo is 'traditional', to make that a true statement we would have to change the meaning of 'traditional'.  But that meaning would definitely not be the normal use of the term, the sense in which most people use it.

To be clear, here I am simply making a descriptive claim, and not a normative one.  I am simply observing that the novus ordo is a significant departure from what has been handed down to us from time immemorial.  So it cannot be called 'traditional' in the sense in which the ordo antiquus is traditional.  I'm not saying that "the present Order of the Mass is an abomination" or anything of the sort.  And I actually admire you for your courage in saying the novus ordo in Latin in this diocese; may God reward you for that.  But obviously, you would agree that if you were to celebrate a novus ordo Mass in Latin and called it the "Traditional Latin Mass," and advertized it as a TLM (without telling them you really mean the novus ordo), you would really be confusing them, because that is not what everyone understands by that term.

(5) So, to summarize, since the other terms are not satisfactory, and since no one (rightly) thinks of the novus ordo as being traditional, at least not in the strong sense in which the ordo antiquus is traditional, and since most people who really care about it call it the TLM anyway, it seemed to me to be a sufficient and adquate term and to be preferable over all the others.  I do not usually object when people use the other terms, but I myself prefer TLM.

But ultimately, Father, I think you are right in saying that language matters, and in pointing out that the term "Traditional Latin Mass" is not perfect.  I would agree that it is not totally unambiguous.  And I would even grant that the particular variant "Latin Mass" is indeed very ambiguous.  In fact, given these reflections, I might therefore change the name of the site from "Willamette Valley Latin Mass Society" to "Willamette Valley Traditional Mass Society," or something like it.  I will pray about it.

But these, dear Father, are just my personal convictions.  I appreciate the opportunity to discuss these issues with you, and look forward to your feedback.  I wish you many blessings in your ministry.  I said a memorare for the victims in Roseburg and hope that our readers do the same.  Perhaps you can offer an old requiem Mass for them.  I would be happy to serve.

In Christo rege,
Dr. Francisco Romero Carrasquillo

Monday, September 28, 2015

Ite ad Thomam's 10th Anniversary; Or Apologia Pro Absentia Mea


Dear faithful readers,

This coming month, Ite ad Thomam turns 10 years old!  Hurray!  But perhaps more obviously, Ite ad Thomam has also been mostly dormant for the last four years, or since around 2012.  I would like to take the occasion of our 10th Anniversary to offer an apologia for my relative absence, together with a renewed resolution to continue the blog, announcing a change of focus in the content of future posts.

Apologia Pro Absentia Mea.  While in philosophy graduate school at Marquette University, I decided to take up medieval philosophy as my area of specialty for an obvious reason: my love of St. Thomas, which grew out of my love for the Church and for truth.  But within medieval philosophy, Divine Providence led me to great mentors at Marquette who among other projects led a research group called "Aquinas and the 'Arabs'", which as the name suggests focused on the relationship between St. Thomas Aquinas and his Arabic predecessors (Al-Farabi, Avicenna, Averroes, Maimonides, etc.).  During this time I was able to appreciate St. Thomas' thought under a new, historical light, and it gave me the opportunity to compare the insights of so-called 'historical' Thomist with more traditional Thomists like Cajetan, Hugon, Garrigou-Lagrange, and others.  Moreover, in grad school I had the leisure, intellectual curiosity, and freedom to do research outside of these areas, and to venture into traditional Catholic issues to my heart's content.  I even did an MA in Theology 'on the side', because I felt that since St. Thomas was a theologian by profession, he cannot be understood fully from an exclusively philosophical perspective.

That rich exchange of ideas filled my head and my heart and I had to find a way to communicate them, following the Dominican motto, contemplata tradere aliis ('to hand down the fruits of contemplation to others').  I knew that later, as a scholar, I would be able to do this, but at the moment I was not yet ripe enough to publish my ideas in academic journals.  Yet I felt that some things had to be said then, so that is how the blog came to be in 2005.  The basic idea of the blog was to share my research on issues that could be of interest to traditional Catholics.  

In 2009 my life started to change.  That year I finished my Ph.D. in medieval philosophy in May, and in July I moved with my family of 6 to Guadalajara, Mexico, to take a job as assistant professor at Universidad Panamericana (UP), a university affiliated with Opus Dei.  Taking that job in Mexico has proved to be the second-best decision of my life, the first being having married my lovely wife.  My first three years or so there (2009-2012) were spent in relative leisure, learning to be a professional philosopher and building my CV with publications and other research activities.  For the first time in my life my income was respectable, and I was able to rely on a stable paycheck and fringe benefits.  My growing family was experiencing relative stability for the first time.  From 2005 to 2012 the blog had plenty of posts on traditional Catholicism and Thomism and generated a significant readership.

But by 2012 my research and publications were significant enough that I was granted membership in Mexico's National Research System (SNI).  This means receiving a significant stipend so long as a publication quota is met; the quota involves choosing a rather narrow line of research and to publish in prestigious academic journals on that line of research.  In addition to increasing my income, being a member of SNI also opened doors in the world of academia.  I now travel internationally once or twice a year to conferences on medieval philosophy to present my research papers and receive feedback from other experts in the field (expenses paid by UP).  This feedback has been of great help in preparing papers for publication.  My chosen line of research, given my heavy involvement with the aforementioned research group, could be summarized as "Aquinas and Medieval Arabic Philosophy of Religion."  Yet this narrowing down of my focus meant that what would be in my mind most of the time, with few exceptions, would be less and less related to the general themes of Ite ad Thomam.

Almost at the same time as I made it into SNI, I was asked by the higher-ups at UP to take on the duties of chair of the Humanities Department for a short period of time.  This was an amazing opportunity that I gladly took up.  My teaching duties were reduced so that I could continue my research trajectory and still handle the administrative burden.  From 2012 to 2014, I was successfully publishing in academic journals, meeting my research quotas, and at the same time doing (in my opinion) a respectable job as department chair, so I was promoted to Associate Professor.  All of this of course meant not only a higher salary and a greater sense of committment to UP, but also that my time was very limited and blogging would just have to be put on hold.  This was even more so the case as my family, by God's grace, kept growing. 

Yet despite my professional success, during all those years in Mexico my family, especially my wife, had not adjusted well to the culture there.  In 2014 my wife started to push very seriously for us to move back to the US.  She was badly missing her family and her home state, Oregon, with its beauty, its comforts, its great healthcare, and its people.  By that time we had a family of 8, and all the kids were rooting for her.  So I caved in and in May we moved back, without a clear idea of what I would be doing for a living in Oregon.  

After months of not having a job in the US, through the intercession of Our Lady and many other saints, I was able to work it out with UP to continue to work as a research professor there without any teaching duties, so that I could live away from the campus.  So as of right now I live in Oregon and continue as research professor at UP.  I can continue researching and publishing from here, as opposed to having to live there in Guadalajara, so long as I meet my research quotas and remain a member of SNI.  (If I drop out of SNI I might have to move back.)  Additionally, I may, and do, travel down to the Guadalajara and Mexico City campuses to teach intensive courses on an as-needed basis.  And that's what I've spent doing the last year: adjusting to our new life in Oregon and continuing to work on my research (in addition to having our seventh baby and putting two of my children through major surgeries, but that's another story.)  Point is, Ite ad Thomam had to be put on pause.

So that's what I've been up to, and that's why the blog has been mostly dormant since 2012.  My academic life has changed too much (plus it was just way too busy) for me to be posting frequently on traditional Catholic issues.  Also, I have too much pressure now as a scholar to produce a certain kind of publication in a research area that has only an indirect relationship with traditional Catholic issues.  So I just don't spend the majority of my time thinking about traddy issues anymore, like I used to in grad school and in my early years as an assistant professor.  And, besides, in my years studying those issues, through authors like Garrigou-Lagrange I was able to find answers to most of those preoccupations, at least to my satifaction.  Frankly, my study of providence and predestination was the key to them all, since it led me to "cast my cares upon the Lord," and that gives me the serenity to focus on other philosophical and theological problems that were on Aquinas' mind but which are less explored in the secondary literature (such as the nature of religious worship and sanctity), which provides me with the opportunity to do a bit more significant, or even groundbreaking research.

New Resolution.  I am still a traditional Catholic; I have not deserted the faith (may God grant me final perseverance!).  In fact lately I have dedicated some time to traditional Catholic projects of a more practical nature for my area, such as this one.  I also participate in traddy conferences like this one.  And I do still remain committed to promoting traditional Catholic thought through Ite ad Thomam.

But if I am going to continue posting, if I am going to continue contemplata aliis tradere, I have to share what is in my mind, and what is in my mind is what I research, and my life as a traditional Catholic professor of philosophy.  So after taking some time to think about it, I've decided to change the focus of Ite ad Thomam provisionally, in an experimental fashion.

Change of Focus.  I secretly envy my wife's blog because her posts are so simple, and yet so elegant and beautiful.  Whereas my blog posts so far have required lots of thinking, she has been able just to blog about her life, the way it comes at her.  She doesn't have to think much about it; she just takes a few pictures of the kids here and there, or of her garden, or her fitness progress, and tells the story behind it.  (To do justice to her, she often shares very insightful reflections about what she posts.)   Still, I don't see why a trad professor can't do the same with his own life as a professional.  There aren't that many traditional Catholic professors actually employed at universities nowadays, and from that very select minority, I can't think of many who blog about it.

In fact, in the 10 years that I've run the blog I have received a massive number of emails from young aspiring scholars (grad students, seminarians, young scholars, etc.) who want advice regarding the profession.  Not only where to study or what to study, but how to build their CV's, how to prepare for interviews, where to publish, what line of research to go into... a lot of what I do for Ite ad Thomam is help others deal with this odd profession.  I believe it may be of interest to at least some readers to share with them my life as a traditional Catholic who is trying to be a successful professional (actually, a saint) in academia.

So let's give it a try.  In the next months I am going to change the focus of the blog a bit, give it a more practical tone, so as to reflect what is really going on in my mind.  I will post about my current research, about the my conference travels (I have lots of pictures of Europe!), about my teaching, and whatever other academic topic comes to mind.  I will try to post frequently, about once a week, and the posts will mostly follow a stream-of-consciousnees style, like this one.  There will probably be an occasional heavy, academic, theoretical article on some philosophical or theological issue, but it will be related to my current research, and not necessarily to a traditional Catholic issue.  Given that my research has occasionally stumbles upon a traddy issue, like the issue of handing the death penalty to heretics, I'll post on that, too, at some point.  But most posts won't be that relevant to trad issues, and some will quite frankly seem somewhat bland.  But one thing is for sure; it will all relates back to St. Thomas somehow, and insofar as St. Thomas is the doctor communis, the Doctor of Doctors of the Church, it will hopefully be of interest to traditional Catholics.  Please leave your feedback in the comments section.

Sancte Thoma, ora pro nobis!

Dr. Francisco Romero
(aka, Don Paco)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Call for Papers: Thomas Instituut te Utrecht Conference on the Moral Virtues

From 16 - 19 December 2015 the Thomas Instituut te Utrecht (Tilburg University) will organize its fifth international conference on the subject: “The Virtuous Life, Thomas Aquinas on the theological nature of moral virtues.” At this conference, the Thomas Instituut will celebrate its 25th anniversary. 

The teachings of the moral part of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae continue to inspire and to enlighten theologians and ethicists. Especially for those who are interested in a specifically Christian account of human moral and spiritual life, Aquinas’ ethical investigations in the Summa are an inexhaustible source. In his rich and detailed treatment of both the moral and the theological virtues, however, Aquinas fails to explain unambiguously to what extent the Christian faith determines human moral life. As a result, this topic is the subject of an ongoing debate in the literature. The treatment of human moral life in the second part of the Summa is structured according to the scheme of the four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues. The cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and courage are the four pillars of the moral practice of man in this life. The theological virtues, in contrast, direct human life towards the ultimate end beyond this world, which consists in the beatifying vision of God. These virtues are not acquired by human acts but are ‘infused’ by God, in such a way that through grace and the consequent virtues of hope, faith, and love the human person is initiated into a relationship with God himself. The division between the four cardinal virtues on the one hand, and the three ‘Christian’ virtues of grace on the other is complicated by the existence of moral virtues which are, together with charity, infused by God rather than acquired by our own efforts. In philosophical-ethical approaches to Aquinas, the existence of ‘infused moral virtues’ is often neglected or dismissed as a minor complication. However, in recent literature, several serious attempts have been made to revalue the infused moral virtues and to highlight the essential role they play, together with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, in Aquinas’ interpretation of the whole of human moral and spiritual life, following Jesus Christ. Some go so far as to contend that the discussion of the cardinal virtues in the second part of the Summa focuses exclusively on the infused virtues, which are an essential part of the Christian life. The interpretation of the infused moral virtues is the acid test of one’s general view on the nature and orientation of Thomas’ moral theory: how theological are the moral virtues?

Questions to be discussed: The general theme of the congress covers a broad range of topics and questions. Some relevant question to be discussed are, for example: do the cardinal virtues come in two versions: a natural version and a Christian version dependent on grace? How should the project of the moral part of the Summa be characterized? Is it a sort of phenomenology of the Christian life? Is it theological ethics in a restrictive sense? Or is it rather an inquiry into the intelligibility of the moral life from a Christian perspective? In what ways do the theological virtues orient human lives towards a transcendent, supernatural goal? What are Aquinas’ views on pagan virtue? Is there authentic virtue in man apart from charity?

Link to Call for Papers.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Quaeritur: Does the First Way Argue for a Personal God?

QuaeriturI am arguing with atheists about the existence of God using the First Way of St. Thomas Aquinas. One of them said that the First Cause does not have to be a living being. I know that this is absurd, but I just can't pinpoint the absurdity of the statement. Please help.

It all depends what they mean by 'living'. If by living they mean a biological entity with a body and vital/physiological functions, then no, the first mover doesn't have to be that. (In fact, it can't, ultimately.) But if they just mean a thinking or rational entity, i.e., a personal being, then eventually (through the fifth way) you can show that the first mover does have to be an intelligent being. But you have to be careful, especially with the first way, not to attempt to prove too much about God. It just shows that there has to be a first being that is the mover of everything else in the universe. Remember that the first way comes from the pagan Aristotle, who knew relatively little about God, compared to any Christian. (Note, though, that the first way is about the first mover, not the first cause; that is an important nuance.) 

One thing about the first way: it is not arguing about the first moment of creation, and it is not arguing that there must have been a temporally first event that came from God. Remember Aristotle believed in the eternity of the world (he thought, erroneously but through no fault of his own, that the world always was and always will be), so he cannot possibly be arguing that a temporally first mover is needed to explain the first temporal movement in history. In other words, there is no 'big bang' in Aristotle, nor is there anything remotely like a beginning in time. He is arguing instead that right here, right now, all this motion is coming from God, who is right now the first mover of the whole universe. That is, the computer keys are being moved right now by my fingers, which are in turn simultaneously being moved by my brain, which is in turn simultaneously being moved by my will, which is simultaneouly being moved by... the Unmoved Mover, whom everyone calls God. This is a very sophisticated argument, and almost invariably people get it wrong and read into it a temporal universe, something that is directly in contradiction with Aristotle's Physics. 

But hey, sounds like you got them to agree that there's a first mover. 

Thank you. I thought the First Way was the most common and easiest for people to understand. Which of the Five Ways do you recommend most then?

I love the fifth! 

I just want to be 100% clear. If someone says, using only the First Way to prove the existence of God, that the First Mover does NOT have to have an intelligence and can be just an infinite energy source, for example, then he is correct? 

No. It does not follow immediately from the first way that the first mover is intelligent, but if you delve into all the metaphysical implications of there being a first, unmoved mover, you will find out, as Aristotle did, that this first mover is the source of all actuality, and hence necessarily pure act; that is, it must possess all the act, all the perfections of everything that it moves. In other words, it is the source of all actuality; it is that which makes all potency actual. And hence if something in the universe is actual, if anything has an actualized potency, it owes this actualization to the unmoved mover. Consequently the unmoved mover, as pure act, must be intelligent, because intelligence is an actuality, and every actuality has its source in the pure act. If there were not a source of intelligence, there could not be intelligence in the universe. But there is intelligence in the universe (we have intellects). So the first being, pure act, includes the act of intelligence. This is how even Aristotle, 350 years before the coming of Christ and without the benefit of a monotheistic religion in his cultural background, concluded that God is noesis noeseos, "thought thinking itself." 

That is the truth of the matter, but since you are dealing with a non-believer who might not be overly eager to reach belief in a personal God by drawing out all the implications of every argument, you should make concessions for rhetorical purposes. You can tell him that you concede that the argument does not immediately imply the unmoved mover is a personal being. This can serve him very well, because by doing so you are showing him that you are an honest inquirer, and are not just trying to persuade him at all costs. 

But you can also say that there are other arguments that immediately conclude in a personal God, e.g., the fifth way. It concludes that there is an intelligent orderer (in Paley's words, a designer) of the universe. And that argument is as convincing, if not more, than the first. 

As far as your comment on the first way being easiest, I would point out that Aquinas is the original proponent of the fifth way, whereas the other four are taken from other thinkers. I believe Aquinas' is the best, but he humbly made it the last of the five, and gave Aristotle the credit for coming up with the one that is 'most evident': we all undeniably see (1) things moving, but we might not exactly see (2) causality, (3) contingency, (4) ontological gradation, or (5) teleology. But that doesn't mean it is the easiest to follow.  Actually, I think it is hard because it is the richest of them all; most divine attributes are implicit in it (more on that later).  But I think that as far as argumentative structure, the fifth one is the easiest by far. It is remarkably simple. And personally, it is the one that helped me the most to arrive at the belief in a personal God. And it is by far the most discussed by contemporary thinkers, especially theistic scientists. You should watch the documentary/movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, if you haven't already:

I thank you very much for taking the time to explain and elaborate. I must say that I am a bit disappointed with the First Way. I thought that each of the Five Ways was self-sufficient in immediately proving the existence of God and that God was an intelligent being. I guess I didn’t think it through well enough. I assumed that the First Mover is intelligent and that it would evident through each of the Five Ways. Thank you. I will try to learn well the Fifth Way and use it in the future. 

Yes, St. Thomas is very patient. He never tries to prove too much. Take a good look at the contents of the Prima Pars. Take in consideration the fact that Aquinas spends only one article (Ia, q. 2, a. 3) to prove the existence of a 'deity', "something we can call 'a god'," and then takes 20+ questions (Ia, qq. 3-26) to demonstrate what exactly He is like, what are His attributes. 

My experience with the first way has actually been quite the opposite: at first I encountered it as an atheist and it seemed modest enough that I could accept it without buying into the whole Catholic religion, which at the time sounded more like a mythology than anything else. But Divine Providence knew that that's exactly what I needed at the time. I needed to take baby steps towards belief in God. That was my first baby step. 

Then I continued to work my way through the five ways and each one enriched my notion of the deity, and the fifth one sealed the deal insofar as it helped me arrive explicitly at a personal God. As I kept on studying, and made my way through the whole treatise on De Deo Uno (Ia, qq. 2-26), I started realizing that most of the proofs for this and that attribute made reference time and again to the first way. God is simple because he is pure act, as was proven in the first way. He is omnipotent, omniscient, infinitely perfect, etc., etc...., because he is pure act, as proven in the first way. Almost all of the De Deo Uno all boils down to the first way. Even the whole topic of predestination (Ia, q. 23) is deducible mostly from the first way! The first way is truly foundational for St. Thomas' worldview. It is of immense importance. This is not surprising, as even in Aristotle, almost all of his theology in Metaphysics XII (aka, book Lambda) is deduced from the argument from motion discussed in Physics VIII. So what at first seemed like a modest enough argument for my poor atheistic mind to accept, now is for me the obvious foundation for my worldview.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Quaeritur: On the Nature of Moral Theology and Practical Propositions


Is Moral Theology a speculative or practical science?

Moral Theology is not 'one science', i.e., a whole science. It is an integral part of Sacred Theology, which is one, whole science. So the question is whether the science of Sacred Theology is practical or speculative. One can't really ask whether an elephant trunk, elephant legs, or an elephant tail is a quadruped.  It only really makes sense to ask whether an elephant is a quadruped.

Now, Aquinas answers this question in the first question of the Summa Theologiae (ST Ia, q. 1, a. 4)His answer may seem slightly strange at first but as you read on in the Summa it starts making more sense: he says that Sacred Theology is both speculative and practical, but that it is primarily speculative.  We ought to study it primarily for the sake of knowing God (hence it is speculative, for speculative sciences exist for the sake of knowledge), although it also helps us order our actions toward God (and hence is secondarily practical, for practical sciences exist in order to guide our actions). 

But I suppose you could say that moral theology is the practical part par excellence of Sacred Theology, as its whole function is to guide our actions toward God.

So is it accurate to say that doctrines concerning Faith are speculative and hence of the speculative intellect, whereas doctrines concerning Morals are practical and hence of the practical intellect?

Mostly, although in reality the use of both is intertwined in the different parts of Theology. Just to cite two examples, in dogmatic theology we speak of God's providence, which has lots of practical ramifications for our moral and spiritual life, and in moral theology we speak of the passions, which help us understand Christology (dogma) in a speculative way.  

Note that the very terms dogmatic and moral theology are not used by St. Thomas. Not only are they posterior to him in origin, but they are somewhat inadequate as they give the impression that there are different 'theologies' or theological sciences.  According to him there is only one Sacred Theology (sacra doctrina) and it has parts or treatises that are more or less speculative/practical. The moral part (IIa Pars) is naturally more practical, but there is lots of speculative thought in it, and the predominantly speculative parts (Ia, IIIa) which we now call 'dogmatic theology' have lots of practical applications. Moreover there are treatises, like that on grace and the one the sacraments, which are both specualtive and practical to such equal extents that some scholastic authors disagree as to whether they consider them dogmatic theology or moral theology. (St. Thomas treats of grace in his predominantly practical IIa pars, and of the sacraments in his predominantly speculative IIIa pars, but you can't really blame other authors for thinking that the treatise on grace is speculative or that the treatise on the sacraments is practical.)

One good author to consult here is Garrigou-Lagrange, esp. his introductions to his commentaries on the Summa. He was perfectly faithful to the thought and principles of St. Thomas in a time when many scholastic (and non-scholastic) authors were less consistently Thomistic, at least insofar as they lost sight of some of the nuances of Aquinas' understanding of science and of sacred theology.

Thank you, Doctor.  One more question: Is this accurate?  "Abortion is morally evil" – speculative intellect (doctrine of Faith).  "You shall not commit abortion" – practical intellect (doctrine of Morals). 

Both are practical because they both have to do with moral actions. It's not just a question of grammar ('is' vs. 'shall not') but a question of being vs. action ('is the case' vs. 'should be the case'). Something more speculative would be 'abortion is the killing of a fetus', whereas 'abortion is wrong' is practical.

So ‘abortion is the killing of a fetus’ is a doctrine of Faith, whereas ‘abortion is wrong’ is a doctrine of Morals?

Yes, one could say that.

Thank you. I have been struggling with this Faith/speculative vs. Morals/practical distinction for some time. I knew that I could come to you for a clearer understanding. God bless.

You're welcome.  I'm glad I could help a bit.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Collection of Essays on Garrigou-Lagrange


Jude Chua Soo Meng, Thomas Crean OP (Eds.) 
Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange OP: Teacher of Thomism.  

Link to free pdf on

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

"The Intertwining of Multiplicity and Unity in Dionysius’ Metaphysical Mysticism" by Don Paco


"The Intertwining of Multiplicity and Unity 
In Dionysius’ Metaphysical Mysticism"
Tópicos 44 (2013), 207-236

Francisco J. Romero Carrasquillo, PhD
Universidad Panamericana
(Guadalajara, Mexico)

Abstract: In St. Dionysius, the procession of things from, and their reversion to, the One, far from being distinct and clear-cut events, can be understood as intertwined, simultaneous, and co-eternal ‘moments’ of the same cosmic reality, whereby a given thing oscillates, or spirals, between unity and multiplicity. Moreover, St. Dionysius’ mystical itinerary is a special case of his procession-reversion metaphysics: mysticism is the soul’s own reversion to the One. This explains why the mind also intertwines cataphatic and apophatic mystical discourses, as it spirals between unity and multiplicity. This analysis has the advantage of bringing added coherence and realism to St. Dionysius’ metaphysical and mystical doctrines.

Key Words: Dionysius, Cataphatic, Apophatic, Affirmative and Negative Theology, Henosis.

Link to full article on PDF on Tópicos website.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

In Memoriam R. P. Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP (1877-1964)

Share/Bookmark On the 50th Anniversary of his Transitus (passage into heaven).

Taken from Mass of Ages, August 2006, The Latin Mass Society's quarterly magazine:
Original Source: (now the article is available here.)

A Saint in Heaven

Who was the greatest theologian of the twentieth century? Many, seduced by the glamour of personality (which obtains even among theologians), would answer Karl Rahner SJ. But some who know how ferociously certain pre-Vatican II thinkers were buried by the liberals and reformers would look elsewhere entirely. One who loomed like a giant was Pére Garrigou-Lagrange, OP who is now being slowly rediscovered, not least by Fr Aidan Nichols, OP who has accepted a new lectureship at Oxford University in part to reassess his work. Here Fr Thomas Crean OP introduces Garrigou-Lagrange's life and thought.

John Henry Newman, in his Plain and Parochial Sermons, said this: "Great saints, great events, great privileges, like the everlasting mountains, grow as we recede from them." As we leave behind the twentieth century it becomes easier for us to see who the great men of that time within the Church truly were, and any list of such men would surely include the French Dominican theologian, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. Father Garrigou-Lagrange's works would once have been highly esteemed by seminarians and theologians alike; after the Second Vatican Council they fell largely into neglect, but more recently there have been some small signs that he is being read again, e.g. a new book published by an American Dominican introducing his life and work, and the inclusion of his name among the lecture topics scheduled for this coming year at Oxford University.

So who was this man, described rudely enough by the novelist François Mauriac as "that sacred monster of Thomism", but by Pope Paul VI as "this illustrious theologian, faithful servant of the Church and of the Holy See"? (The phrase "monstre sacré" is not easy to translate. It may be used colloquially of a 'legendary' media personality, such as a film star. Used of a theologian it was certainly meant ironically. I am grateful to Mr Brian Sudlow for supplying this information.)

Absolute truth
Gontran-Marie Garrigou-Lagrange was born in 1877 into a solid Catholic family living in the south-west of France. In 1896 he began studies in medicine at the university of Bordeaux, but whilst there he read a book by the Catholic philosopher Ernest Hello which changed the direction of his life. Years later Fr Garrigou described the impression this one book made upon him: "I glimpsed how the doctrine of the Catholic Church is the absolute Truth about God, about His inner life, and about man, his origins and his supernatural destiny. As if in an instant of time, I saw how this doctrine is not simply 'the best we can put forward based on our present knowledge', but the absolute truth which shall not pass away..."

To this intuition the young university student would remain faithful for the remaining sixty-eight years of his life.
Medical studies abandoned, Gontran-Marie entered the French Dominicans at the age of twenty, and received the religious name Reginald. (Blessed Reginald of Orleans was a contemporary of St Dominic: our Lady appeared to him in a vision, cured him of a mortal sickness and gave to him a white scapular that thereupon became part of the Dominican habit.) Friar Reginald had the good fortune to receive his initial training from Dominicans committed to implementing Pope Leo XIII's encyclical letter Aeterni Patris, the document that insisted upon the unique place of St Thomas Aquinas in philosophy and theology. It was by studying the angelic doctor that the young Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange nourished the conviction that had brought him to the cloister: the unchangeableness of revealed truth.

His superiors clearly perceived his abilities, for after ordination in 1902 Fr Reginald was enrolled for further philosophical studies at the Sorbonne in Paris. It was a mark of the trust that his superiors placed in him that he was sent to so aggressively secular an environment while still a young priest. Among his lecturers were Henri Bergson, Emile Durkheim, and the not yet excommunicated Alfred Loïsy, 'father of Modernism'. His fellow students included the future philosopher Jacques Maritain, not yet a Catholic and indeed driven almost to despair by the prevailing nihilism of the great French university. Father Garrigou's relations with Maritain were later to be both fruitful and troubled.

In 1906, Fr Reginald was assigned to teach philosophy at Le Saulchoir, the house of studies of the French Dominicans. His pedagogic skill was such that in 1909, at the age of thirty-two, he was sent to teach at the Dominican University in Rome, the Angelicum. Here he remained for the next fifty years, teaching three courses: Aristotle, apologetics and spiritual theology. He had the gift of making the most difficult subjects clear, and of showing how sound philosophy and revealed truth fit together in a wonderful harmony. Father Garrigou clearly loved his work: one of his students remembered him exclaiming, "I could teach Aristotle for three hundred years and never grow tired!" He also possessed what is perhaps the rarer gift of communicating his own zest for a subject to his listeners, for his lectures, abstract though they were, were not dull affairs. One student paints this portrait of Fr Garrigou lecturing: "His small eyes were filled with mischief and laughter, his body was constantly moving, his face was able to assume attitudes of horror, anger, irony, indignation and wonder."

The watchman
Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange was by nature and conviction a controversialist. He believed that the theologian's task was not simply to teach Catholic doctrine but also to be, in the scriptural phrase, a watchman, on guard against whatever might undermine it. In the spirit of St Pius X and his encyclical Pascendi, published in 1907, Fr Garrigou considered that the greatest threat to the Catholic faith was what is called 'Modernism' – that confused effort, made sometimes with good intentions and sometimes with bad, to 'reinterpret' Catholic doctrines in line with prevailing trends in history, philosophy and the natural sciences. Into the combat with Modernism he entered with vigour, attacking not people but errors, and desiring to lead those in error back to the integral truth of the Catholic Faith.

Two of the 'great names' of the day with whom Garrigou-Lagrange crossed swords early on were his former professor Henri Bergson and Maurice Blondel. Bergson, now almost forgotten, was then a greatly celebrated Jewish philosopher who seemed to many Catholics a useful ally in the struggle against materialism. Father Garrigou showed that Bergson's writings were incompatible with the Catholic belief that by our concepts we can grasp the unchanging natures of things, and thus can form dogmas that will never need to be revised. In the end Bergson was brought, in part by Garrigou's efforts, to the very brink of the Catholic Church, though he died unbaptised.

Blondel was another widely-fêted philosopher who was a Catholic. His explanation of how only Christianity could fulfil the deepest human longings compromised what is called 'the supernatural order': the fact that God by sanctifying grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit raises us infinitely beyond anything that our nature itself requires. For Fr Garrigou, the distinction between the natural and supernatural orders was of the essence of Christianity – he loved to quote a dictum of St Thomas Aquinas, that "the smallest amount of grace in one person is greater than the whole of creation". One child with a baptised soul is of more value than all the angelic hierarchies, naturally considered. It was because Blondel's ideas threatened to undermine this distinction that Garrigou-Lagrange resisted them. In so doing he anticipated the teaching that Pope Pius XII was later to issue in the encylical, Humani Generis.

In his defence of Catholic doctrine according to the principles of St Thomas, Fr Garrigou was greatly aided by Jacques Maritain. Maritain, originally from a markedly anti-clerical family, entered the Church in 1906 and was to become the most brilliant Thomist philosopher of the twentieth century, dying in 1973. Between the two wars, Garrigou-Lagrange and Maritain organised the 'Thomist Study Circles'. These were groups of laymen committed to the spiritual life who studied St Thomas and the Thomist tradition, and who met once a year for a five-day retreat preached by Fr Garrigou at the Maritains' house in Meudon. The study circles were highly successful, and Meudon became a seed-bed of vocations. The young Yves Congar, who was later to write somewhat bitterly about Garrigou-Lagrange, was present at some of the retreats preached by the Dominican friar at Meudon, and later recalled: "He made a profound impression on me. Some of his sermons filled me with enthusiasm and greatly satisfied me by their clarity, their rigour, their breadth and their spirit of faith."

Throughout this period Garrigou-Lagrange's reputation grew and became international. His lectures at the Angelicum on the spiritual life were particularly in demand. According to one author they became "one of the unofficial tourist sites for theologically-minded visitors to Rome", attracting students from other universities and even experienced priests who wished to learn more about spiritual direction. (Father Garrigou himself was a sought-after spiritual director, valued alike for his knowledge, his firmness and his compassion.)

Call to holiness
It is perhaps in this field of mystical, or spiritual, theology that Garrigou's most original work was done. As early as 1917, a special professorship in 'ascetical and mystical theology' had been created for him at the Angelicum, the first of its kind anywhere in the world. His great achievement was to synthesise the highly abstract writings of St Thomas Aquinas with the 'experiential' writings of St John of the Cross, showing how they are in perfect harmony with each other. The one describes the spiritual life from the point of view, so to speak, of God, analysing the manifold graces that He gives to the soul to bring it into union with Himself; the other describes the same process from the point of view of man, showing the 'attitudes' that a faithful soul should adopt at various stages of the spiritual journey. It must have been particularly pleasing for Fr Garrigou when St John of the Cross, whose orthodoxy had once been doubted by some writers, was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI.

The other great theme of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange's spiritual theology was the universality of God's call to the mystical life. He argued convincingly that while the more dramatic mystical phenomena such as visions and locutions are obviously reserved to a few, all the baptised are invited not just to a life of virtue, but to a life of close union with God in prayer. This union is in the most proper sense of the word mystical, since it is founded on the gifts of the Holy Ghost and on our sharing in God's own life by sanctifying grace. He went so far as to say that the transforming union as described by such saints as St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila was simply the full flowering of the grace of baptism. At the same time, Fr Garrigou's writings contain useful warnings against abusing this doctrine, for he often points out that any so-called mysticism not based on the practice of the virtues and on meditation on Christ and His Passion is an illusion.

The role of university professor naturally brought with it the obligation of supervising doctoral students. It is said that Garrigou considered his best student to have been his fellow French Dominican, Marie-Dominique Chenu. Chenu's later career, however, must have been a disappointment to his mentor, for he went on to distance himself from the kind of Thomism traditionally practised in the Dominican Order in favour of a far more 'historical' approach to the subject. Fr Garrigou, however, was always less interested in historical questions of who influenced whom than in discovering where truth in itself lay. It also seems unlikely that Garrigou would have been impressed by Chenu's involvement in the 'worker-priest movement'. Another doctoral student of Father Garrigou's, and one destined for an even more prominent role in the Church than Chenu, was a young Polish priest named Karol Wojtyla. Under Garrigou-Lagrange's direction the future Pope wrote a thesis on 'The meaning of Faith in the Writings of St John of the Cross.'

Kingship of Christ
The disaster of world war in 1939 brought a special, personal suffering to Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange: estrangement from Maritain. When France fell, Fr Garrigou, in common with many Frenchmen, continued to recognise Marshal Pétain, the hero of the Great War, as the rightful head of state. It followed that Charles de Gaulle was a mere rebellious soldier attempting to usurp authority. Father Garrigou did not shrink from publicly stating the logical conclusion: objectively speaking, to support de Gaulle was a mortal sin. But Maritain was a Gaullist, and made radio broadcasts from America in favour of the Free French.

This practical disagreement was matched by a theoretical one: Maritain had come to advocate a 'pluralist' model of society, in which adherents of different religions or of none would be granted equal freedom of expression and of public practice; a shared 'sense of human brotherhood' would be enough, he argued, to create a basically just society. Garrigou-Lagrange considered that Maritain was compromising the social doctrine of the Church by his writings on this subject, and also that he was overly optimistic about the spiritual state of those outside the Church. He wrote a solemn letter to Maritain asking him to change course, but Maritain, despite the great esteem he had for Fr Garrigou as a theologian and as a man of prayer, refused to do so. The friendship between the two men was wounded, and could not be healed, or not in this life.

After the war Fr Garrigou continued to teach in Rome. Over the years, his lecture notes were turned into an impressive array of books, the more technical ones being published in Latin and the more popular ones in French. In particular he commented on St Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologiæ, taking his place in the line of the great commentators on that work, a line that stretches back to the Middle Ages. All the time, he was conscious, like Pope Pius XII, of how the dangerous tendencies against which he had striven in the days of St Pius X were still alive in the Church, threatening to undermine the integrity of doctrine. A famous article of his, called, 'Where is the New Theology Headed?' was written shortly after World War II. It contains this shrewd comment about Catholics who were unwittingly harming the Catholic cause: "They go to 'the masters of modern thought' because they want to convert them to the faith, and they finish by being converted by them". An interesting remark, perhaps, for these days of inter-religious dialogue.

No portrait of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange would be complete without reference to his religious life. For if he was an internationally renowned professor (and a feared opponent), he was above all a friar of the Order of Preachers. He was known, in fact, for his fidelity to the regular life. Although dispensations from the choral office were readily available in the Dominican Order for someone with his teaching load, Fr Reginald was habitually present in choir. He would have gladly echoed a remark made by St John Bosco to his religious: "Liturgy is our entertainment". We are told that he was very modest in matters of food and drink and that he felt that it was hardly compatible with religious poverty to smoke. His 'cell' at the Angelicum was the most spartan in the priory, with no ornamentation, and a bed that was, in the words of one contemporary, "a pallet and a mattress so thin that it was virtually just an empty sack". It was not that he had no attraction for the things of the senses – as a young man he had learned to love the music of Beethoven, a love that remained with him through life. Yet – as he taught generations of Roman students – ascetism is a permanent necessity in this life, both because our fallen nature inclines us to sin, and also because we have to be made capable of the infinite good which is God.

Father Garrigou liked to emphasise that there is no incompatibility between external works such as teaching, preaching and retreat-giving and the monastic life that he had learned to live within the cloister. Following a dictum of St Thomas, he would remark that a friar's external activity should flow "from an abundance of contemplation", especially from liturgical prayer, mental prayer and above all the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He was always troubled when anyone seemed to rank action more highly than contemplation, or spoke of the latter as a mere means to an end. He liked to emphasise that contemplation is an end in itself, a higher good, from the fulness of which preaching comes forth. To explain this idea, he would use the analogy of the Incarnation of the Word and man's redemption. From all eternity God willed the Incarnation, not as a means subordinated to our redemption, but as a greater good, from which our redemption would, so to speak, overflow.

In short, Fr Garrigou-Lagrange was not only a master of spiritual theology: he lived what he taught. Yet if his vocation lay principally in what are called 'the spiritual works of mercy', he did not forget the corporal ones. In his room he kept a box with the inscription, 'Pour mes pauvres', and into this he would invite his many visitors to put alms. When it was full he might be seen doing the rounds of the city of Rome, distributing the contents to the poor.

Final years
Father Garrigou had worked in various capacities for the Holy Office from the days of Benedict XV onwards, and in the late 1950s Pope John XXIII invited him to join the theological commission that was preparing documents for the Second Vatican Council. But by this time his strength was failing, and he had to decline. He gave his last lecture at the Angelicum shortly before Christmas, 1959. For the next five years Friar Reginald lived in a serene decline of his mental faculties. As his mind and his eyes failed, this great theologian who had once written so subtly of potentiality and act, of sufficient and efficacious grace, of the inner life of God and the glory of Heaven, would remain in his bare cell or in the priory church, praying his Rosary and awaiting his own transitus. He died on 15 February 1964, the feast of one of the greatest of Dominican mystics, Blessed Henry Suso.

Unanswerable questions are the most fascinating. What would Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange have said, what would he have done, if he had lived a little longer with his faculties intact? What would he have thought of the Second Vatican Council, and of the liturgical reform? Might he, like his confrère Roger-Thomas Calmel, have become an early ally of Archbishop Lefebvre in the struggle to maintain orthodoxy? Or would he perhaps, like Cardinal Ottaviani, have spoken once and then resigned himself and the Church to God? Who shall say? A merciful Providence spared him all such puzzles: he had fought the good fight long enough, and he was called home.

Let the last word be given to Jacques Maritain. In 1937 Maritain recorded in his diary a disagreement which he had had with Fr Garrigou over the Spanish Civil War. Years later, when Maritain published his diaries, the following note was appended to the passage in question: "This great theologian, little versed in the things of the world, had an admirably candid heart, which God finally purified by a long and very painful physical trial, a cross of complete annihilation, which he had expected and had accepted in advance. I pray to him now with the saints in heaven."

Suggested Reading
I should like to acknowledge my indebtedness for this article to a recent book by an American Dominican, Fr Richard Peddicord, entitled, The Sacred Monster of Thomism. As far as I know, it is the only book that has been written expressly on Fr Garrigou-Lagrange's life and legacy. It is published by St Augustine's Press.

Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange wrote 28 books and over 600 articles. His best-known work of mystical theology is the two-volume study, The Three Ages of the Interior Life. This is in effect a summa of his research in this field. Many people, laymen, religious and priests, have found it very valuable. It has recently been reprinted in English by TAN Books.

For those interested in apologetics, De Revelatione is an austere masterpiece. It was in large part translated into English in 1926 by Thomas Walshe under the title, The Principles of Catholic Apologetics. A companion work, though more philosophical in content, is God: His Existence and Nature, published originally by St Louis. The same publishing house produced translations (from Latin) of Fr Garrigou's commentaries on the Summa Theologiæ of St Thomas.

TAN Books have also reprinted various other of the more 'popular' works of Garrigou-Lagrange, including The Mother of our Saviour and Everlasting Life. These are full of solid doctrine, whilst also being suitable for devotional use.

Finally, there is a work called The Last Writings of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, published in 1969 by the New City Press. This contains retreat talks given by Fr Reginald in his last years.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Cekada's Work of Human Hands: A Critical Book Review by Don Paco


Anthony Cekada. Work of Human Hands: A Theological Critique of the Mass of Paul VI.  West Chester, OH: Philothea Press, 2010.  444pp.

Review by Dr. Francisco J. Romero Carrasquillo 

This book is a bold, critical study of the ideology underlying the liturgical changes that occurred during the second half of the Twentieth Century in the Roman Rite.  Theologically profound and well-researched, it can be seen as an important contribution to ‘traditionalist’ Catholic scholarship.  Previous full-length monographs on this subject have focused mainly on criticizing the changes to the Ordinary of the Mass and on chronicling the historical circumstances that led up to them.  This study, however, includes not only criticism of the changes to the Propers (variable parts), and in particular an unprecedented account of changes to the Lectionary, but also a ground-breaking theological analysis of the ideological influences that underlie all the changes.  Despite the author’s admittedly sedevacantist background, his critique of the New Mass is based exclusively on sound, traditional Catholic theology and is, thus, independent of (or at least logically prior to) his ecclesiological views on the current status of the Papal See.
The work is divided into fourteen chapters of roughly equal length.  After an introductory chapter that covers the motives and scope of the work, Chapters 2-6 focus on the general history of the recent liturgical changes to the Roman Rite, laying out the ideology behind them.  Chapter 2 focuses on the thought of the scholars who headed the liturgical movement that brought about the reform, with particular emphasis on Josef Jungmann and Louis Bouyer; Chapter 3 identifies the Pre-Conciliar Pian Commission and Holy Week Reforms as being continuous in aim and motivation with the Post-Conciliar liturgical reform; and Chapters 5 and 6 deal separately with the 1969 and 1970 versions of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (or GIRM).[1]  Chapters 7-13 then analyze the new Mass point by point, from art, architecture, furnishings, and introductory rites all the way through the dismissal, including both the Ordinary of the Mass and the Propers.  The author does this by comparing the salient elements of the New Mass with their traditional counterparts, and citing members of the hierarchy, ‘periti’, and other authorities to reveal the motives behind the particular changes.  The book then concludes with a summary of the evidence and a recapitulation of the argument.  Except for this overall summary at the end, every chapter ends with a rather helpful, if unconventional, point-by-point summary of chapter contents that adds clarity and cogency to the general argument. The book’s appendix is also worth mentioning: there, Cekada offers a compelling case for the use of the 1951 (or any pre-1955) Missal, rather than the 1962 Missal, an argument that could be well received by traditionalist groups that currently use the latter. 
            The book’s main thesis is that (A) the Mass of Paul VI, said according to its prescribed rubrics as they are found in the Editio Typica of the Missal, is gravely irreverent and destroys Catholic doctrine in the minds of the faithful.[2]  Cekada also defends two secondary theses that are corollaries of the first: The Mass of Paul VI, said according to prescribed rubrics, represents (B) a rupture with tradition, and (C) a spurious restoration of the ancient liturgy of the Church.  The book can be seen as a 400-page inductive argument to support these three theses.   Whereas I can agree entirely with theses (B) and (C), I believe that thesis (A) needs to be qualified significantly.  I shall deal with (B) and (C) first, then (A). 
The author offers strong evidence for his second and third theses, (B) and (C).  The theological foundations of Cekada’s overall argument are found in Chapter 2, a true gem on the theological motives behind the liturgical reform.  There, Cekada shows that the changes were intended to promote the nouvelle theologie (‘new theology’) of men like Pius Parsch, Romano Guardini, Josef Jungmann, and Louis Bouyer.  As operative theological principles of the reform, Cekada specifically singles out the following four: (1) Josef Jungmann’s liturgical “Corruption Theory,” according to which the Roman Rite that was in use in the early 20th Century represented a departure from, and corruption of, primitive liturgical ideals.  As a result, the liturgical reform—claims Jungmann—must recover this primitive ideal.  Jungmann thus promoted a sort of resourcement in the area of the liturgy.  (2) Jungmann’s “Pastoral Liturgy” view, which advocated refashioning the Mass in order to meet the perceived needs of contemporary man—a position that could also be characterized as a sort of liturgical aggiornamento.  (3) Louis Bouyer’s “Assembly Theology,” according to which the essence of the Mass consists in an assembly of the ‘People of God’ that, together, celebrates the gathering, the priest merely acting as ‘presider’—a Protestantizing view that bypasses the traditional Catholic doctrine of the Mass as essentially a Sacrifice offered by the priest alone to God, to which the people unite themselves.  (4) Bouyer’s theory of “Other ‘Real’ Presences,” which inflates Christ’s presence in the congregation and in Scripture in order to de-emphasize the faith in the Real Presence of Christ under the Eucharistic species—a technique of the reformers that pervades the New Mass and which Cekada calls ‘devaluation-by-inflation’.  Whereas resourcement and aggiornamento characterize Jungmann’s principles, a strong ecumenical motivation is evident behind Bouyer’s views.
Cekada meticulously shows that these principles are at work in the recent liturgical changes.  In Chapters 5 and 6, he shows how Bouyer’s “Assembly Theology” and his theory of “Other ‘Real’ Presences” are the central motifs in the New Missal and the GIRM.  He also shows that, for every change that is a supposed to represent a ‘return to the ancient ideal’ (cf., Jungmann’s “Corruption Theory”), the real motive is not a fidelity to antiquity but a desire to abolish a rubric that is doctrinally unacceptable to ‘modern man’ (or to these new theologians).  Hence the need ‘modernize’ the liturgy and make it acceptable to ‘contemporary sensibilities’ (cf., “Pastoral Liturgy”).  Take, for instance, the “Prayer of the Faithful” or “Universal Prayer”: such prayers did exist in some ancient liturgies, and so the re-establishing of these prayers in the New Mass was presented as a return to antiquity.  Yet the original text of these prayers, which the traditional Missal still prescribes for the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday, is emphatically un-ecumenical and offensive to ‘modern man’ and to new theology; moreover, they are invariable.  The new “Universal Prayer,” on the other hand, is systematically de-Christianized, de-spiritualized, and de-supernaturalized, primarily to placate liturgists who complained that the original prayers had been written “in the direction of a devout and conventional religion, utterly foreign to the pastoral needs of today” (p. 256).  In the end, even the de-supernaturalized prayers became optional, and their content is ultimately de-regularized and left up to the discretion of the priest, commercial liturgical publisher, local liturgical planning committee, or director of worship.  The result is something that superficially resembles an ancient liturgical prayer (cf. “Corruption Theory”), but which was established to meet the ‘needs of contemporary man’ (cf. “Pastoral Liturgy”) and is, as Gamber puts it, “a novelty which stands completely against liturgical tradition” (p. 257). 
Another extensive example of antiquity-as-an-excuse-for-novelty is given in Chapter 10, which concerns the changes to the Lectionary.  Here—Cekada argues—despite the fact that, thanks to its three-year cycle, the New Lectionary contains more Scripture readings than the old Missal, nonetheless, through ‘adroit choices’ some important Scriptural texts—often a verse or two in the middle of a feast day or Sunday Gospel reading—are bracketed off as optional or altogether omitted, because of their ‘negative theology’, i.e., they doctrinally run afoul of the nouvelle theologie or of ecumenism.  Thanks to these omissions, the average Catholic can attend Mass every Sunday for an entire Lectionary Cycle (three years) and never hear theologically ‘negative’ Scriptural passages such as Our Lord’s warnings against hell, St. Paul’s warning against receiving the Body of Our Lord unworthily, his teaching on heresy, heretics and their fate, or his command that women be submissive to their husbands, that they cover their heads, and remain silent in Church.  In practical terms, this chapter is perhaps the most devastating for the defenders of the liturgical reform, and it alone, in my opinion, is worth the price of the entire book.
Now, Cekada’s main thesis (A), in my view, is not sufficiently nuanced.  There are doctrinal problems with the new Missal and GIRM, to be sure; yet, contrary to what Cekada suggests, there is nothing in the Missal or GIRM that could explicitly be identified as heretical.  In the 444 pages of the work, Cekada never successfully points to a single explicit heretical proposition in the text of the New Mass, whether in the Propers or the Ordinary.  All of the doctrinal problems that he points out consist in omissions, ambiguous phrases, ‘devaluation-by-inflation’, or deficiencies in the many rubrics, expressions, and gestures that make up the Missal and GIRM.  Nowhere is a dogma explicitly denied.  As far as I could tell, there are only two places in the book where Cekada tries to identify a specific heresy that he thinks is present in the new liturgical reform.  One of these is his discussion of the GIRM’s doctrine that the Mass is a re-presentation of the Last Supper.  He claims that this is opposed to the Council of Trent’s dogma that the Mass is a re-presentation of the Sacrifice of the Cross.  Yet Cekada does not sufficiently discuss or explain why these two notions contradict each other or are mutually incompatible.  I do not see why someone who thinks that the Mass is in some sense a representation of the Last Supper must necessarily deny the dogma that the Mass is a representation of the Sacrifice of Calvary.  While I do not defend the idea that the Mass consists in a representation of the Last Supper, I would not go so far as to claim it is necessarily a denial of a Tridentine dogma.  A doctrinal novelty does not ipso facto involve heresy.  There are different levels of theological error—and Cekada is well aware of this—yet he does not discuss whether the doctrinal problems of the new Mass could be categorized as otherwise than heresy. 
Rather than state that the Mass contains heresies, I would admit that it was clearly motivated by novel doctrines, some of which are obviously dangerous.  One could even admit that, in the context of current theological trends, the New Rite may indirectly promote these novel doctrines, and in the minds of most of the faithful these novel doctrines involve a denial of the traditional faith, yet this in no way means that the new Missal contains any proposition or gesture that inherently asserts heresy.  Take, for example, the changes to the offertory prayers.  The traditional prayers at the offering of the paten and chalice eloquently summarize the Catholic doctrine on the Sacrifice of the Mass, and offer the bread and wine already under the aspect of an ‘Immaculate Victim’ (Immaculatam Hostiam) that will be sacrificed later on, thus making an allusion to the future Consecration.  The new prayers, however, do not make reference to the ‘Victim’ or to the Sacrifice.  Instead, they are pervaded by a naturalistic tone, as they speak of offering of (mere) bread and wine, which are being considered as the ‘work of human hands’ and which will become ‘bread of life’ and ‘spiritual drink’.  This is where Cekada makes his second accusation of heresy: he suggests that calling the bread and wine ‘the work of human hands’ amounts to stating that the matter of the Sacrament of the Eucharist consists in human work, and that this is heretical.  Yet, the New Missal in no way states that the matter of the Holy Eucharist is human work.  That some theologians read the Missal this way is one thing, but that the Mass itself says so explicitly is quite another.  A more reasonable criticism of the new offertory prayers would be that, though not heretical, they simply fail to communicate the Catholic theology of the Sacrifice of the Mass.  Perhaps the change was motivated by a novel theology that differed from the traditional theology of the Sacrifice of the Mass, yet no denial of the traditional doctrine is present in the rite itself.
 Similarly, in the context of current theological trends (e.g., the ecumenical requirement of making the Mass less offensive to Protestants, and the desire of many to abandon the traditional Catholic theology of the Mass), the now-allowed gesture of receiving Holy Communion in the hand may be seen as an indirect attack on our faith in the Real Presence.  Yet it is not inherently wrong or heretical in itself to receive Holy Communion in the Hand.  Even the old De defectibus prescribes it in certain irregular situations.  In itself, this change only amounts to an omitted profession of faith in the Real Presence—an omission that does not in itself imply a denial.  So it is in context only, and not in itself, that this new concession can be seen as doctrinally problematic.
            Interestingly, Cekada also offers two arguments for the invalidity of the New Mass.  First, he gives the well-known ‘pro multis’–‘for all’ argument.  To my disappointment, Cekada never addresses any of the detailed defenses of the validity of the ‘for all’ translation offered by scholars such as John McCarthy and Manfred Hauke, or even as much as mentions the Vatican pronouncement on this issue.  His second argument, however, is more interesting: it is based on one of the criticisms in the Ottaviani Intervention regarding the requisite ministerial intention for saying a valid Mass.  The traditional Mass left no room for the priest to be lacking in his requisite intention to change bread and wine into the Most Sacred Body and Blood of Our Lord: the texts made clear what was going on, and what ought to be the intention of the celebrant.  The priest who pronounced those words meaningfully and assertively would automatically have the requisite intention.  The New Mass, however, together with the 1969 GIRM, present what used to be called the ‘Consecration’ as a mere ‘Institution Narrative’,[3] such that a priest is able to pronounce the new ‘Institution Narrative’ as a mere historical account of the Last Supper without the intention of effecting the Transubstantiation.  This would result in an invalid Mass—as Cekada dramatically puts it: “No Body, no Blood, no Mass.”  This, in my view, is a theologically sound criticism of the new ‘Institution Narrative’ terminology.  Yet this criticism should be tempered by one important clarification that Cekada never makes: this argument applies only to individual Masses where the priest lacks the requisite intention—something that is also possible, though significantly more difficult, in the context of the Old Mass.  The criticism does not apply to every Mass said according to the New Missal, for even in the New Rite, a priest who, despite the vague, new ‘Institution Narrative’ language, manages to pronounce the words of consecration meaningfully and assertively, with the requisite intention, bypasses this problem and truly brings about the Transubstantiation.[4]
            Cekada’s research is, overall, scholarly and profound, eye-opening and convincing.  He leaves no room to doubt in the reader’s mind that the creators of the New Mass were seeking to promote doctrines in line with the ecumenical and nouelle theologie movements.  Even though Cekada’s main thesis is not simpliciter warranted, the book successfully shows that the New Mass represents a theological novelty, a doctrinal rupture with tradition and a spurious return to primitive liturgy.  Inevitably, the book will have to be taken seriously by contemporary theology scholars of all camps.

[1] Cekada abbreviates it as “GI,” but I shall follow the general convention in abbreviating it as “GIRM.”
[2] It must be noted that Cekada does not intend to criticize mere liturgical ‘abuses’—violations of the New Missal’s rubrics—that frequently take place in the context of the New Mass.  Rather, he explicitly criticizes the new Missal itself as doctrinally problematic. According to Cekada, his view distinguishes him from other traditionalist authors who, he claims, have only criticized ‘abuses’ or who argue in favor of the traditional Mass on the basis of mere aesthetic preference or individual sentiment, and if they ever criticize the New Missal itself, they have merely held it is ‘ambiguous’, instead of acknowledging that it is inherently problematic in its doctrine.  I think Cekada exaggerates a bit, however; there are plenty of other works that are critical of the doctrine contained implicitly and explicitly in the New Mass and the new liturgical laws, and not just its aesthetical problems or its ‘abuses’.  To name a few of these works: Davies’ monumental, three-volume Liturgical Revolution, the SSPX’s The Problem of the Liturgical Reform: A Theological and Liturgical Study, and of course, A Short Critical Study of the New Order of Mass by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci, commonly known as The Ottavianni Intervention.
[3]  The 1970 GIRM saw itself forced to change the expression to ‘Institution Narrative or Consecration’.
[4] Oddly enough, although Cekada thinks the New Mass is invalid, he still thinks it is a sacrilege!  Yet, if “no Body, no Blood, no Mass,” then how can it be sacrilege?  Cekada appears never to make this connection.