William. F. Buckley Jr. on Humanae Vitae

buckley1Twenty years ago Buckley wrote Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith, sharing his personal thoughts and experiences as a life-long Catholic. Writing in his typical high-brow conversational manner, you might feel as though you were sitting next to him on the panel of Firing Line. And indeed there is a panel; he structured his essays around answers to questions he had posed to his unique “Forum”, a group of intellectuals that had come to the Catholic faith as adults. His insights and outlooks remain relevant and valuable today.

On the subject of contraception (chapter 12), the opinions of his Forum were divided. But Buckley doesn’t bother to engage them; the publication of Humanae Vitae rendered the question pointless. “…[T]he answer, for a Catholic, has got to be: the position of the Pope, as spokesman for the magisterium.” He shifts the conversation to a question he finds more challenging:

“It is that the law against contraception is quite simply ignored. No, not by everyone; but the data suggest that contraceptives are sold in similar quantities to Catholic and to Protestant men and women. There is no way to establish what percentage of Catholic women (or men) who use them confess to having committed a sin. And in any case, if absolution is not valid in the absence of the penitent’s subjective determination not to sin again, one must assume—simply from one’s view of crowded communion rails—either that the sin is not being confessed or else that the determination not-to-sin-again is widely irresolute.”

Continue reading “William. F. Buckley Jr. on Humanae Vitae”

The Reform of the Reform of the Reform…

In a recently published interview, Pope Francis was again disparaging those with a preference for the traditional Latin mass, referring to them as nostalgic and marginalizing them and the mass itself. He also quashed the notion of a “reform of the reform” as a restoration of certain elements of traditional liturgy:

“Pope Benedict accomplished a just and magnanimous gesture to reach out to a certain mindset of some groups and persons who felt nostalgia and were distancing themselves. But it is an exception. That is why one speaks of an ‘extraordinary’ rite. The ordinary in the Church is not this. It is necessary to approach with magnanimity those attached to a certain form of prayer. But the ordinary is not this. Vatican II and Sacrosanctum Concilium must go on as they are. To speak of a ‘reform of the reform’ is an error.” (trans. by Rorate-Caeli)

The following is an excerpt from a post I wrote about a year ago. Bishop Floyd Begin of Oakland, California (1962-1977) had attended every session of the Second Vatican Council and had even claimed to be the author of Council documents. When it ended in 1964, he returned determined to renovate the cathedral, built in 1893. If anyone knew what the intention of Sacrosanctum Concilium was, it would have been Bishop Begin:

INFLUENCE OF THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL

St. Francis de Sales became known as the “…first cathedral in the United States to be completely remodeled according to the liturgical spirit of the Second Vatican Council”. (All quotations herein are from: Jeffrey M. Burns and Mary Carmen Bautista, We are the Church: A History of the Diocese of Oakland. Strasbourg: Editions du Singe, 2001). The enthusiastic bishop had a bold plan for remodeling the Cathedral:

“With the priest now facing the people, the bishop found the venerable stained glass windows behind the alter distracting. ‘The rather colorful windows in the sanctuary impeded the vision of the service, just like the headlights of an oncoming car do.’ The stained glass windows were covered over by redwood paneling. The interior was whitewashed and the exterior was painted in a creme color [it was red brick]. The alter rail was removed as were all the statues, except for that of Jesus. In sum, the remodeled building followed Vatican II directives and created ‘…an atmosphere conducive to participation, worship, and prayer.'”

The Cathedral interior before the renovation:

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The Cathedral interior after the renovation:

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The new altar:

st francis6

THE NEW LITURGY

Since the inspiration for these changes was “…the liturgical spirit of the Second Vatican Council”, by 1969 the Cathedral’s liturgical spirit had incorporated elements from contemporary arts:

armstrong
Neil Armstrong

“Dance, slide presentations, photography, innovative preaching [?], all became regular features in the Cathedral liturgies. …In late 1969, the Cathedral featured an Advent series entitled ‘We Hold a Strange Hope’ to explore how to maintain hope in the midst of the social chaos that was engulfing the United States. The first week featured four blown-up portraits hanging in the sanctuary — Che Guevara, Joan Baez, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Neil Armstrong” (p.52).

The historians report that the organ was replaced by an ensemble of strings, brass, piano, and various musicians (p.51). The liturgical innovations attracted national attention:

“In May, 1971, Time Magazine observed, ‘twice each Sunday, the music runs the scale between such unlikely extremes as Gregorian chant and rock. On one recent Sunday, the mixture embraced both Bach’s Aire for the G-String and Amazing Grace. On another, included a Hayden trio, Bob Dylan’s The Times They are A Changin’ and Luther’s A Mighty Fortress is our God.'”

The historians recount that in 1971, during one of the themed liturgies, a song was performed that was composed especially for the occasion, “A Traditionalist’s Lament”. It mocked anyone still attached to the traditional form of the mass. It was sung to the tune of a song from the film Mary Poppins, “Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious”:

Refrain:

Introibo. Tantum. Ergo. Kyrie Eleison.

Give me back my pamphlet rack and surplices with lace on.

If Catholic means rock-and-roll I’d rather be a Mason.

Introibo. Tantum. Ergo. Kyrie Eleison.

You can read the rest of the post here. The Cathedral was destroyed in an earthquake some years later, reminding me that in too many cases the vernacularization of the liturgy brings to mind the Tower of Babel rather than Pentecost.

…rjt

Where the Second Vatican Council and Modern Architecture Converge

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St. Francis de Sales, Oakland, CA, (ca. 1970)

The history of the cathedral of the Diocese of Oakland is instructive for understanding the early influence of the Second Vatican Council on the subsequent design of many Catholic churches. The recently-installed bishop of Oakland at the time, His Excellency Floyd Begin, the Diocese’ first bishop, had attended every session of the Council and returned in 1964 determined to renovate the existing cathedral, built in 1893, rather than spend a large sum on of money on a new one.

INFLUENCE OF THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL

St. Francis de Sales became known as the “…first cathedral in the United States to be completely remodeled according to the liturgical spirit of the Second Vatican Council”. (All quotations herein are from: Jeffrey M. Burns and Mary Carmen Bautista, We are the Church: A History of the Diocese of Oakland. Strasbourg: Editions du Singe, 2001). The enthusiastic bishop had a bold plan for remodeling the Cathedral:

“With the priest now facing the people, the bishop found the venerable stained glass windows behind the alter distracting. ‘The rather colorful windows in the sanctuary impeded the vision of the service, just like the headlights of an oncoming car do.’ The stained glass windows were covered over by redwood paneling. The interior was whitewashed and the exterior was painted in a creme color [it was red brick]. The alter rail was removed as were all the statues, except for that of Jesus. In sum, the remodeled building followed Vatican II directives and created ‘…an atmosphere conducive to participation, worship, and prayer.'”

The Cathedral interior before the renovation:

cathedral3

The Cathedral interior after the renovation:

st francis4

The new altar:

st francis6 Continue reading “Where the Second Vatican Council and Modern Architecture Converge”