Thursday, January 11, 2018

Distinction: Social Constructs and Arbitrariness

A distinction that SJWs often fail to make (in fact, I don't think I've ever seen it made by such people) is between the fact of something being a social construct and the degree to which the signifier for that construct is an arbitrary relation. (You'll learn something to this effect in any introductory semiology course, which is rooted in modern philosophy, regarding the relation between the signifier and signified in Saussure's--mistaken--conception of the sign, but I've never seen the connection applied in this conversation.)

For example, English uses the generic word "dog" to refer to a number of animals of a certain genus and species. The particular use of the letters "d-o-g" is an arbitrary historical accident; hence the same concept may be expressed by different letters, a different word, in a different language, e.g. "perro."

The concept of a dog is derived from a combination of accrued sense perceptions by multiple individuals over time and an implicit, public agreement to use a common word to express the concept constructed by these sense perceptions of different dogs. Hence the concept of a dog is literally a social construct, AND the word used to label dogs as dogs is also a social construct.

The difference lies in the degree of arbitrariness. The concept of dog is not an arbitrary concept even though it is a social construct that has evolved over time. In fact, it is not arbitrary at all but based on common perceptions of a class of objects, in this case, the domesticated canine. These perceptions are not random, arbitrary, or fruitless, but of the sort that can be further refined by scientific (ideoscopic in John Deely's language) investigation.

The very fact of a certain thing's being a social construct says nothing about whether it has an arbitrary relation to the "reality" that it expresses, such as the relation between the letters d-o-g, the concept of a dog, and the actual, individual dogs going about their daily business, so to speak.

Hence, even if one were to grant that gender is merely a social construct, it would require FAR much more work to establish further that gender is an arbitrary construct, that it has no relation whatsoever to biological sex ontology and functioning (or put in other words, that they vary totally independently).

Most social constructs are not arbitrary constructs but exist for very good reasons. In fact, one could argue that society is held up by a deep, historic foundation of social constructs, and society itself is just such a construct necessary to preserve its unity and continuity.

Distinction: Sex/Gender Ontologically and Epistemologically Considered

Whatever sex and gender may be, there is often a conflation in most discussions when trying to define these terms between what they are ontologically, in themselves (in se or per se), and what they are epistemologically (esse ad aliud, being toward another).

Hence people try to define sex and gender along ontological considerations, what is this thing in itself regardless of how people perceive it; arguments of this sort tend to say something like, "A person is this sex/gender even if he/she or anyone in the world doesn't realize it. The person's sex/gender is determined by genetics."

When defining sex and gender along epistemological considerations, arguments of this sort tend to emphasize the social construction and interpretation of each notion, ultimately explaining both as different because of performative qualities.

Yet people on both sides of the spectrum (ho ho...) of this argument will unconsciously conflate both types of argumentation. Hence you'll see some social constructionist or antiessentialist types refer to the "genetic realities/differences" of sex but go on to emphasize the psychological and social perceptions, intuitions, self-consciousness, etc. that predominate any consideration of what sex and gender ultimately are concretely considered for this individual. Something like: "Yes, although her chromosomes are XY, she is a woman because she knew, etc...." Hence the psycho-social, epistemological dimension of the definition of sex/gender dominates the ontological and becomes in turn a new ontological definition, *the* only ontological definition that matters.

Genetic/essentialist types will take the opposite approach: "Whatever she 'thinks' she is, because of the chromosomes XY, she is actually a he." Or more crassly, it's "lipstick on a pig."

However, it seems clear that both dimensions, the ontological and epistemological, are necessary to keep distinguished and present when discussing sex/gender, for these ultimately can be understood only by both aspects.

It must be remembered that the effects produced causally by genes will always have exceptions; this does not mean that biological sex is somehow more complicated or varied than the binary of male-female. It simply illustrates a basic facet of causality in reality: the transition (ho ho...) from cause to effect is not always and everywhere perfectly accomplished. This is precisely the importance and meaning of final causality in such discussions. All things being equal, this cause tends to produce this range of effects; this cause tends to result in this range of effects if nothing impedes or hinders the causal chain. The fact that not all things are equal or that circumstances occur in which that causal chain is impeded does nothing to change the fact of its final causality. We would never say a lightbulb under any circumstances gives birth to a baby; such an effect is in no way possible given its teleology. But certainly the lightbulb can fail to emit light for any number of reasons; such a failure does not mean the lightbulb is "more complex" than a certain light-producing entity powered by electricity. It simply means that the cause, for various reasons, failed to result in the range of expected effects. We may or may not know why that happened, but that is immaterial to the causality itself.

Hence the mere existence of intersex conditions says nothing about the biological finality of genetics; it says something about the chaotic nature of reality itself, in which not every cause leads inevitably, always and everywhere, to its intended effect. A definition, therefore, cannot be based on an accidental exception foreign to the intrinsic nature of the cause itself, a nature that becomes clearly discernible over time through scientific investigation and peer review.

Investigation and peer review bring us to the epistemological consideration of sex/gender. We judge the sex/gender of others based on sensible signs that accrue from gradual observation. Mischaracterization of peoples' sex/gender boil down to a threefold possible failure: 1) on the side of the misgendered person, who perhaps gives off ambiguous signs about his/her sexual/gender identity; 2) on the side of the interpreter, who failures to interpret properly those signs; or both. There are an innumerable number of possible reasons why such a mischaracterization may occur.

This distinction can obviously be further expanded, but I'll leave it there for now.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Repost: "A First Encounter with the Traditional Mass"

Source: http://sthughofcluny.org/2017/03/a-first-encounter-with-the-traditional-mass.html

Visit the original post to see pictures!

---

We have heard, endlessly repeated over the decades, that the Traditional mass constitutes a barrier to those “outside”: the young, those not practicing their faith and non-Catholics. It is supposed to lock these devoted to it in an inaccessible “ghetto.” Is this true? A now obscure episode of German literary history enables us to test these claims – almost under laboratory conditions.

In the summer of 1793, while the French revolution and its wars were ravaging Europe, the young law students Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder and his friend Ludwig Tieck set out on a series of journeys from the South German university town of Erlangen. They would have an epochal effect on German culture. They traveled through the wild, hilly uplands of Franconia – deep valleys, mysterious caverns, ruined castles and bizarre mountain formations – helping to ignite the Romantic enthusiasm for nature. They explored the winding streets and many medieval monuments of the ancient, almost fossilized but still intact city of Nuremberg, rediscovering the Middle Ages. In palaces, churches, monasteries and cities they studied paintings and sculptures, launching a cult both of the Italian Renaissance and of the age of Albrecht Dürer. But what concerns us is another trip, this time by Wackenroder alone, to investigate not nature or the artifacts of the past, but the Catholic world of his own time. He undertook a journey to the nearby city of Bamberg.

Although a little over 26 miles removed from Erlangen, a trip to the Catholic world of Bamberg was to Wackenroder much the same as a journey to Afghanistan or Burma might be to us. Such was the consciousness of the religious divide in the Germany of that era. Moreover, Wackenroder and Tieck both hailed from Berlin, a stronghold of Protestantism and of the Enlightenment and the most extreme antipode to the Catholic principalities of the Holy Roman Empire. Wackenroder himself seems to have started his journey with no great knowledge of Catholics or liking for them. Indeed, he was of the opinion that Catholics were biologically distinguishable from Protestants:
The character of the Bambergers, in general, is supposed to be ingenuous, dull, and superstitious – and involve frequent beer drinking. As in all Catholic countries, the numerous holy days invite laziness. The general Catholic national physiognomy is very striking and characteristic especially of the women. They are mostly small, anything but beautiful and have a snub nose.
However, the Catholic Church that Wackenroder encountered in 1793 was not that of the desiccated services of the post-Pius X reforms, let alone the cold minimalist rituals we see Bamberg today, attended by only a handful of worshippers. No – it was the Catholic Church bathed in the last golden glow of the setting baroque sun. It was a world of processions, relics and devotions, of overflowing public and popular piety, of splendid masses accompanied by orchestras, gunfire salutes and trumpet blasts! Bamberg was at that time a separate principality of the Holy Roman Empire, ruled by a prince-bishop (an institution so characteristic of the old German Empire!). In Wackenroder’s day, “enlightened” bishops had recently taken steps to reduce the number of processions, to cut down on holydays and to restrain the popular enthusiasm. But much still remained!

He was struck by the superabundance of art in the Cathedral:
Inside, the cathedral contains an indescribable richness of old paintings, tombs and reliefs. One finds similar things in all Catholic churches but not always in such abundance….One can study these all the easier because all Catholic churches are usually open the entire day except in the afternoon; and one doesn’t disturb the few people who are praying at different times in the churches.
Wackenroder continues:
In this cathedral so curious and ancient for me, I attended with the greatest interest on the feast of Saint Henry (the patron saint of Bamberg- SC) High Mass that was held on Sunday from 9 to 10 after the preaching, and on every major feast…. In the streets, flowers were on sale everywhere, which everyone brought into the cathedral. Before the church a woman sat, selling rosaries and scapulars. I bought for myself a rosary for three Kreuzer and a scapular. 
As I entered the venerable church I found it already almost full. I pushed forward up to the main altar and waited now for the solemn scene. Oh! – truly I had not expected very much. Everything was new for me. The ceremonies, which every minute always changed, made an ever stronger and wonderful impression on me the more they were mysterious and unintelligible. I was standing among nothing but Catholics: men, women and children. Some were constantly reading prayer books; others prayed the rosary while standing, yet others reverently knelt right next to me. 
Here I found proved so clearly what Nicolai relates: that fixed raising of the gaze in prayer, which suddenly blazes up to heaven without resting on earthly objects; the making of the sign of the cross in holy zeal; the heartfelt firm striking of the breast which, with expressive glances towards heaven and with deeply felt sighs, shows such special depth of feeling. …One is totally initiated into the Catholic faith here and almost driven to participate in all the ceremonies. 
Now on the high altar, adorned in red, a mass of candles was lit. Everyone who passed this altar genuflected. Now four or five clerics in splendid vestments, embroidered with great flowers in green and gold, with red and white, appeared on the steps of the altar and began the High Mass. It was entirely in Latin, but is available to the people in German translation. The High Mass itself consists of a great number of ceremonies, precisely organized but unintelligible to me. Now this or that cleric sang, with a hoarse, monotonous and unpleasant voice, prayers or selections from the bible – now before the altar, now from a pulpit across from the altar. There, lower clerics in simple choir robes with black collars stood at his side, carrying candles. Now a cleric did this or that on the altar; now they changed places, knelt here or there, on this or that step, now the organ interrupted them at every second or third word and accompanied their chant, of which I could understand only isolated words that were often repeated: a “dominus vobiscum” and an “in saeculo saeculorum.” 
Now, accompanied by violins, etc, arias and choruses were sung in other parts of the church; now the Host on the altar was incensed with a silver thurible hanging from chains; now a cleric took the Host to the other end of the church and returned, always preceded by a soldier with his musket. For, right next to me on the high altar stood four soldiers. On the sides sat the canons in white choir robes and red collars; the cleric with the thurible also approached them, swung it upwards before them and incensed them – which impressed me greatly. 
The most solemn moment, however, was when another cleric showed to the people the monstrance (a gleaming crystal case in which the Host resides). At this moment a bell was rung, the soldiers presented their arms, took off their hats and fell to their knees. The whole congregation fell down and crossed itself, blaring trumpets rang out, which were lost amid the long drawn out sounds of horns. I also fell to my knees, for otherwise I certainly would have exposed myself to the indignation of the people; moreover it would indeed have taken an effort to remain standing in isolation, for a whole world knelt down around me, and everything prompted me to the highest devotion – to do otherwise would have been as if I didn’t belong to the human race.
We will pass over the other artistic experiences and investigations of Wackenroder in Bamberg. But we must mention his participation on subsequent days in public processions, which impressed him greatly. On one such occasion, one of the natives raged at him for not taking off his hat – something like that can befall young ladies today who walk into certain Traditional masses wearing trousers…

Wackenroder’s impressions of individual Catholics and their clergy, however, were mixed. One day (in a subsequent visit to Bamberg with Tieck):
A procession of Carmelites, Dominicans, Franciscans and Capuchins left the church. I saw some venerable and really ideal old men among them.
Several Catholic clerics and other friends, moreover, were very kind and helpful hosts to Wackenroder during his stay in Bamberg. Yet:
The Catholics that I knew were not orthodox and themselves smiled over the peculiarities of their religion.
Wackenroder himself had to endure the company of one insufferable enlightened character who yearned to break out from Catholicism.

On a second journey to Bamberg, Wackenroder and companions wanted to experience the Benedictine life in the nearby monastery of Banz. To their distress, they quickly found that, in that stronghold of the Catholic enlightenment, the traditions of medieval hospitality had vanished….

Among our author’s most positive experiences of an individual Catholic was a visit to a school for girls, where Wackenroder admired a sister of the order of the “English Ladies” conducting a class.[1]

Four years later, in 1797, appeared Wackenroder’s Outpourings from the Heart of an Art-Loving Monk – the title alone reads like a fantastic Romantic manifesto. In this book Wackenroder alludes several times to his experiences in Bamberg, above all in one crucial chapter describing a young German painter encountering the Catholic mass. Wackenroder shifts the time from that of his era to the early 16th century, the place from Bamberg, the “German Rome,” to the real one, and the church from an early Gothic cathedral to the Pantheon. Instead of the sober, almost scientific prose of the accounts of his travels, the style is florid, exalted, and enthusiastic – in a word, Romantic. (Indeed, my edition claims the following passages were actually written by Tieck; the two friends often contributed to each other’s works.)
I went recently into the rotunda [of the Pantheon] for it was a great festival and a splendid Latin music was going to be performed – but really above all to see my beloved again among the praying crowd and to hover in the presence of her celestial devotion. The splendid temple, the huge mass of the people that again and again pressed in and surrounded me ever closer, and the dazzling preparations – all this induced in my soul a wonderful attentiveness. I was most solemnly disposed. Even if I wasn’t thinking clearly and lucidly, as usually happens in such a tumult, my very soul was stirred as if something very special was about to happen within me. At once everything grew quieter. Above us began the all-powerful music – slowly, fully, expansively – as if there blew an invisible wind above our heads. Like the sea it surged forth in ever-greater waves, and its sounds drew my soul completely outside of my body. My heart pounded, and I felt a mighty yearning for something great and sublime that I could embrace. The full Latin chant that, rising and falling, forced its way through the tones of the music like ships sailing through the waves of the sea, raised my soul ever higher. And, while the music pervaded my entire being and ran through all my veins, I, who had been sunk in thought, raised my eyes and looked about me. The entire temple appeared alive before my eyes – the music had intoxicated me so! At that moment the music stopped, a priest advanced before the high altar, raised the host with an enthusiastic gesture and showed it to all. Everybody fell on his knees, trumpets blared out indescribable, all-powerful sounds and solemn prayers resounded everywhere. All those pressed tightly around me fell to their knees. A secret miraculous power drew me too to the floor, and I couldn’t have resisted with all my might. 
And now, as I knelt with bowed head, and my heart soared within my breast, an unknown power lifted again my gaze. I looked around me, and it seemed clearly as if all the Catholics, men and women, who, kneeling, now meditated, now gazed up to heaven, crossed themselves reverently, struck their breast and moved their praying lips – as if all were praying to the Father in heaven for the salvation of my soul, as if all the hundreds around me prayed for a lost one in their midst and drew me over to their faith in silent worship but with irresistible force. Then I glanced to the side at Maria, and I saw a great holy tears spring from her blue eyes. I didn’t know what was happening within me, I couldn’t stand her gaze any more, I turned my head sideways, my eyes fell upon an altar, and a painting of Christ on the cross looked at me with indescribable melancholy. The mighty columns of the temple rose, worthy of reverence, before my eyes like saints and apostles, and looked down on me with their capitals full of dignity. The endless vault of the dome bowed down like the all-embracing heaven over me, and blessed my pious resolutions. 
I could not leave the temple after the end of the celebration, I fell down in a corner and wept, and then passed with a contrite heart all the saints, all the paintings – it seemed that only now could I really contemplate and revere them. I could not resist the force within me – dear Sebastian, I have now crossed over to your faith, and my heart feels happy and light. It was art that had all-powerfully drawn me over, and I can say that only now can I understand and grasp art.
It’s clear that here Wackenroder has built upon the details of what he himself saw in Bamberg but has transfigured them in a new literary form. The emphasis, moreover, has shifted not so subtly from religious ritual to the aesthetic power wielded by art: the architecture, the paintings and above all the music – even leading to a conversion! There is romantic subjectivity too, as the artist’s tearful beloved becomes a Madonna figure leading to Christ. But let’s not be critical: didn’t Vladimir Soloviev point out that St Vladimir chose the Orthodox faith for Russia because the beauty of the ceremonies of St. Sophia impressed him so? And, aside from any aesthetic experiences, the unforgettable impression made on the writer by the open and unashamed devotion of the simple Catholic faithful is the same both in this story and the original account.

Other than what we can surmise from these writings, we know of no conversion in the case of Wackenroder himself. He died in 1798, aged only 24. But he has left for us a marvelous description of a Catholic liturgy, which on one special day made such an indelible impression upon him. For this Mass, so foreign to him, and that he could not “understand,” had clearly communicated to him the most profound sense of worship and of the Divine. Such is the transformative power, both in 1793 and today, of this Mass – the Mass of Tradition!

---

All the quotations are from Wackenroder, Wilhelm Heinrich, Werke und Briefe (1967 Verlag Lambert Schneider, Heidelberg) (reprint of the 1938 edition with the inclusion of one additional letter).

Footnotes:

1. “English Ladies” (Englische Fräulein) a order of teaching sisters founded by Mary Ward in the 17th century but by far more widespread in Germany than in England.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Repost: Communicatio in Sacris

[212] Qu. A Catholic young lady is employed by a concert bureau. Most of the engagements are for music halls or theatres [sic], but the bureau has accepted some engagements for Chautauqua [see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chautauqua] work during the coming summer. The young lady is booked for parts in a quartette, who are to sing at camp meetings. The program on some occasions is so arranged that the quartette will sing during the services. This lady is the only support of an invalid father and brothers and sisters. To give up her present work would mean hardships and privation. The young woman does not want to displease God. I would not like to advise anything that would entail suffering unless I am positively sure that such must be done. Kindly give your solution of the case.

Resp. Theologians are unanimously of the opinion that active, formal participation by Catholics in Protestant services is forbidden. On this point there is no room for discussion. Furthermore, it is positively forbidden to play the organ in a Protestant church during heretical services, even when that is the Catholic organist's means of obtaining a livelihood. For this statement we have the authority of an instruction of the S. Congregation of the Propaganda, dated 8 July, 1889 (Collectanea, n. 1854). It should, however, be noted that in the [213] decree the clause "dum ibi falsum cultum exercent" is restrictive. It would be allowed, of course, for a Catholic to practice on the organ in a Protestant church when no services are being held. Similarly, it may be urged with prudence and discretion, in particular cases, that some gatherings of non-Catholics for the sake of what they call moral culture, even when these take place regularly on Sundays, are not engaged in false religious worship in opposition to the Catholic Church. Indeed, the most severe condemnations of such gatherings is that they are not religious at all. This applies, we think, to many of the Chautauqua organizations. It applies particularly in the case propounded, when, as is evident, the young woman has no desire to do anything displeasing to God. Prudence and discretion require that Catholics be discouraged from associating themselves with any activity that may throw doubt on their loyalty to the true Church. They require also that in particular instances persons whose good faith and Catholic loyalty are beyond question should not be forbidden to carry out such a contract as is mentioned in this case.

---

Source: "Communicatio in Sacris," American Ecclesiastical Review 54 (February 1916): 212–213.

Repost: Catholic Singers in Protestant Churches

[524] Qu. Now that the Review is urging forward the correct interpretation of the Pope's motu proprio on Chant and the music reform, our city pastors are threatening to get the bishops into trouble by referring the indignant lady soloists hitherto in possession of the lofty organ domain, to the episcopal parlors for adjudication of their grievances. It is needless to say that explanations are out of the question, but soothings are not, and a bishop who knows his business will not fan the flame of female resentment.

But there is a serious aspect to this question. Some of our singers who have been doing their duty, and have justly earned a salary, even as the priest himself does in the exercise of the sacred functions, are being deprived of a living by being dismissed from the Catholic choir. Some of these could readily find the needed material compensation and more in accepting positions as singers in non-Catholic, that is, Protestant or Jewish churches. In a few cases no other way of earning a decent livelihood would seem to be open to such women, who for the rest are good and believing Catholics. Is there any interpretation of the prohibition of communicatio in sacris which gives these really worthy women a chance for their living? It seems to me that Protestant religious service is in large measure nothing more than a sacred concert, and no theologian would object to our Catholic lovers of music attending sacred concerts in which Protestants take a leading part, since we live in constant intercourse with such; and Catholic charity owes them undoubtedly a certain amount of respect for holding their views on religious matters in good faith, though perhaps not in a very serious way. Are we not too severe in these matters? I felt as if it were so when not long ago a lady said to me, "Priests don't realize our position; they need not look for a living, and so it is easy for them to make laws."

Resp. The Review has had occasion to express an opinion on the above subject before the present supposed urgency arose by which ladies who have been singing professionally in Catholic choirs are thrown out of positions. The question is not whether we make hard laws, but whether the laws which God made may be explained away by our circumstances and needs. Necessity dispenses from the law, but not every inconvenience or hardship implies a necessity, and no inconvenience or hardship could sanction [525] an act of disobedience implying sin. The priests in France who are deprived of their salary and in some cases of a decent support or living might do many things unbecoming their sacred calling, but they could not lawfully go into Protestant or Jewish houses of worship and take part in the same under plea of earning a living.

For the rest, we have only to repeat here what we said in a previous number of the Review upon this subject.[1]

Whilst as Catholics we are not forbidden honorably to assist Protestants, Jews or Pagans when they stand in need of our service, nor to earn our daily bread by serving them in honest employment—the positive divine law forbids all conscious and direct participation in heretical worship. This is done by playing the organ or singing in the religious service of those who deny the revealed truth of Christ as manifested through its only legitimate channel, the Catholic Church. In case of most sects the very term "Protestant," accepted by them as their religious party-name, is an unconscious admission of their denial of the Catholic teaching as emanating from God. Individual Protestants may not realize this fact; they may be, as we say, "in good faith;" [sic] nevertheless they have attached themselves to a wrong or defective system of interpreting the truth in which God commands us to worship Him. Catholics who are supposed to know and realize the fact that they are in possession of the true faith, cannot consent under any pretext to participate in such false worship without denying implicitly the faith which they are pledged to maintain uncorrupted at the risk of their lives.

What is said here of Protestants is true of Jews and of all other sects separated from the one true Church which, like an open book, is accessible to all who will approach and examine her teaching without malice or prejudice.

What the Catholic believes on this subject to-day is precisely the same as that which the early Christians believed when they shed their blood as martyrs rather than worship in the pagan faith; or which the Jews believed before the coming of Christ, as is witnessed by Eleazar and the Maccabees, who preferred to suffer torture and death sooner than participate in a religious worship [526] which they knew to be false, although there may have been men who belonged to it in good faith.

If there could be any doubt as to the duty of Catholics in this respect, it would be dispelled by the following declaration of the sacred tribunal which acts as the ordinary legitimate interpreter of Catholic disciplinary law. (Cf. Collectan., n. 1854.)
Ex Litt. S. C. de Prop. Fide 8 Jul. 1889, (ad Archiep. Marianopolit.)
"Quidam . . . istius archi-dioecensis petierat facultatem pulsandi in diebus festis organa in templis protestantium ad victum sibi procurandum. S. Congregatio super precibus, uti supra, hoc edidit decretum Fer IV. die 19 elapsi Junii:
Illicitum esse in templis haereticorum, cum ibi falsum cultum exercent, organum pulsare. . . . Quod decretum SS. D. N. Leo XIII eadem die ratum ha buit et confirmavit."
It must not be forgotten, however, that playing or singing in churches or houses which are used for Protestant worship is not quite the same as playing or singing at Protestant worship. [N.B. This is the part of the reason that early American Catholics could share the same church building with Protestants, having Mass at one time, and the Protestant service at a different time.]

Nor is every gathering of non-Catholics for purposes of moral culture, on Sundays, a religious worship in the sense that it excludes or opposes the Catholic teaching of Christ's church.

This [sic] it may be useful for confessors to remember, not because Catholics are in any way to be encouraged to associate themselves with any movement which will cast a doubt upon their thorough and sincere fidelity to the one true Church of Christ, but because circumstances may bring a Catholic unwittingly into associations which look like a denial of faith without being such in reality. In these cases prudence and discretion will counsel and lead a person out of the danger, where blind and mechanical zeal would forthwith condemn absolution under morally unchangeable conditions.

---

Footnotes:

1. Vol. XV, 1896, pp. 428–430.

---

Source: "Catholic Singers in Protestant Churches," American Ecclesiastical Review 33 (November 1905): 524–526.

Repost: Catholic Organists and Singers in Protestant Churches

[428] Qu. Dear Rev. Sir: In a Conference lately held we disagreed as to the licity [sic], under any circumstances, of a Catholic acting as organist for any Protestant service. We agreed to submit the question to the Ecclesiastical Review.

Can a Catholic, in conscience, act as a salaried organist or as singer in a Jewish synagogue or Protestant church, i. e., as such during what they call their divine service?

It was declared that no Priest, Bishop or Pope could grant said permission under any circumstances.

Resp. Whilst as Catholics we are not forbidden honorably to assist Protestants, Jews or Pagans when they stand in need of our service, nor to earn our daily bread by serving them in honest employment—the positive divine law forbids all conscious and direct participation in heretical worship. This is done by playing the organ or singing in the religious service of those who deny the revealed truth of Christ as manifested through its only legitimate channel, the Catholic Church. In case of most sects the very term "Protestant," accepted by them as their religious party-name, is an unconscious admission of their denial of the Catholic teaching as emanating from God. Individual Protestants may not realize this fact; they may be, as we say, "in good faith;" [sic] nevertheless they have attached themselves to a wrong or defective system of interpreting the truth in which God commands us to worship Him. Catholics who are supposed to know and realize the fact that they are in possession of the true faith, cannot consent under any pretext to participate in such false worship without denying implicitly the faith which [429] they are pledged to maintain uncorrupted at the risk of their lives.

What is said here of Protestants is true of Jews and of all other sects separated from the one true Church which, like an open book, is accessible to all who will approach and examine her teaching without malice or prejudice.

What the Catholic believes on this subject to-day is precisely the same as that which the early Christians believed when they shed their blood as martyrs rather than worship in the pagan faith; or which the Jews believed before the coming of Christ, as is witnessed by Eleazar and the Maccabees, who preferred to suffer torture and death sooner than participate in a religious worship which they knew to be false, although there may have been men who belonged to it in good faith.

If there could be any doubt as to the duty of Catholics in this respect, it would be dispelled by the following declaration of the sacred tribunal which acts as the ordinary legitimate interpreter of Catholic disciplinary law. (Cf. Collectan., n. 1854.)
Ex Litt. S. C. de Prop. Fide 8 Jul. 1889, (ad Archiep. Marianopolit.)
"Quidam . . . istius archi-dioecensis petierat facultatem pulsandi in diebus festis organa in templis protestantium ad victum sibi procurandum. S. Congregatio super precibus, uti supra, hoc edidit decretum Fer IV. die 19 elapsi Junii:
Illicitum esse in templis haereticorum, cum ibi falsum cultum exercent, organum pulsare. . . . Quod decretum SS. D. N. Leo XIII eadem die ratum ha buit et confirmavit."
It must not be forgotten, however, that playing or singing in churches or houses which are used for Protestant worship is not quite the same as playing or singing at Protestant worship. [N.B. This is the part of the reason that early American Catholics could share the same church building with Protestants, having Mass at one time, and the Protestant service at a different time.]

Nor is every gathering of non-Catholics for purposes of moral culture, on Sundays, a religious worship in the sense that it excludes or opposes the Catholic teaching of Christ's church.

This [sic] it may be useful for confessors to remember, not because Catholics are in any way to be encouraged to associate [430] themselves with any movement which will cast a doubt upon their thorough and sincere fidelity to the one true Church of Christ, but because circumstances may bring a Catholic unwittingly into associations which look like a denial of faith without being such in reality. In these cases prudence and discretion will counsel and lead a person out of the danger, where blind and mechanical zeal would forthwith condemn absolution under morally unchangeable conditions.

We discussed a case of this kind, not long ago, in the Review.

---

Source: "Catholic Organists and Singers in Protestant Churches," American Ecclesiastical Review 15 (October 1896): 428–430.

Repost: Young Preachers Careful and Careless

[180] My best sermon is the one I know the best.—Massillon.
Many a wandering discourse one hears in which the preacher aims at nothing and hits it.—Dr. Whately.
I have always noticed that the best extemporaneous speeches are those which have been carefully written out beforehand, the manuscript being conveniently within reach in the orator's waistcoat pocket.—J. R. Lowell.

How long should a young priest continue the practice of writing and memorizing his sermons? The question was recently put to a scholarly Catholic prelate and author, and his unhesitating reply was: "Ten years at least." Had the inquiry been as to the length of time during which the average young priest does continue the practice, it is probable, and regretable [sic], that the true answer might have been widely different. As a matter of justice and propriety, no other form of public discourse is entitled to so elaborate a preparation as the sermon; as a matter of fact, one is often tempted to believe that for no other is the preparation so inadequate.

No extended argument is necessary to convince even the youngest of those who have been elevated to the priestly rank that the ministry which they exercise in preaching the Word of God merits their most profound respect, and calls for the best efforts of their intellects and hearts. It is sufficient to remind them that, after the adorable Sacrifice of the altar and the administration of the sacraments, no function is so sublime in itself, or so potential in its results, as that for the performance of which their warrant is the commission of Jesus Christ: "Go ye into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature."[1] That Moses and Jeremiah proclaimed themselves unworthy and incapable of this sacerdotal function; that Isaias, to be equipped for its exercise, needed an angel to purify his lips; that St. John the Baptist prepared himself therefor [sic] by the most austere penance and solitude; that St. Teresa declared that she would willingly give her life a thousand times over for the happiness of being charged with so noble a mission—these [181] are considerations well calculated to impress us with  a due sense of its dignity, while the prime fact that preaching was the chief occupation of the Saviour [sic] during the three years of His apostolic life is not only a proof of the intrinsic excellence of the work, but an indication as well of its relative importance among those duties which the priest, "another Christ," has contracted the obligation of performing.

Were any further considerations necessary to imbue the preacher with an exalted idea of his ministry, they would be found in the magnitude of the results—the glory of God and the salvation of souls—which it is the purpose of the spoken word to accomplish, and in the tremendous responsibilities incurred by those who neglect to do what in them lies toward the achievement of those results. It has been well said that, in practical importance, the sermon scarcely yields to the sacraments; for, although these latter are the divinely ordained channels of God's grace, it commonly happens that preaching is the only means by which those who stand most in need of that grace can be brought to the tribunal of penance and to the Holy Table. There is nothing fanciful or exaggerated in the statement that, as often as the priest announces the Word of God to his people, the interests involved in his discourse, and the results dependent on its force or its feebleness, are incomparably greater than those which confront the advocate appealing to a jury on behalf of a fellow-creature's liberty or life. Theoretically, indeed, it is almost impossible for the preacher to have too lofty a conception of the dignity and importance of his office; practically, however, it is quite possible that in his hands the dignity may be compromised and the importance disregarded,—quite possible that he may come to merit not only the epithets "traitor" and "wretch" with which Quintilian brands the lawyer who fails to do his best for his client, but the terrible anathema of Holy Writ: Maledictus qui facit opus Dei negligenter.[2]

Admitting that the genius essential to the formation of a [182] pulpit orator of the highest grade is nature's dower to but very few, and that notable excellence even in lower grades is due in a considerable measure to natural faculties whose lack can be supplied by no amount of industry, there still seems to be no valid reason why the sermons of every man whom God has called to the ministry of His divine word should not be useful, effective, and, in the truest sense of the much abused term, eloquent. Whether the discourses of any given preacher merit this characterization or its opposite, will be found to depend principally on the degree of thoroughness with which he prepares himself for their delivery. And what is meant here is not the remote or general preparation, essential as that undoubtedly is, not the acquisition of an abundant store of knowledge, the leading of an exemplary and a holy life, a habit of study, the spirit of prayer, ardent zeal, purity of intention, and all those other qualities of head and heart that go to form the character of the man "behind the sermon;" [sic] but the measures taken and the means employed in the actual composition of a particular discourse. Concerning this proximate preparation of the sermon, it may be taken for granted that according as it is thorough or inadequate during the first few years of the preacher's ministry, so it will commonly continue to be throughout his career. Initial carefulness in this respect sometimes lapses into subsequent negligence; but very rarely will it be found that the contrary is the case, that a negligent young preacher makes a careful old one.

Much, then, depends on the manner in which the young priest prepares his sermons; and the remainder of this paper will be given up to a brief discussion of the several methods of preparation that are open to his choice. It may be well to premise that by a "young priest" is meant one whose ordination dates back not further than a decade; and that what follows is based on the supposition of his having, as in the majority of cases he undoubtedly has, ample time to devote to an adequate preparation.

The least complex, and one of the least commendable, of all methods of making oneself ready for the pulpit is that which [183] consists wholly and solely in an exercise of the memory, the preparation being restricted to the simple process of getting by heart the discourse of another. Viewed as a manifestation of altruistic sentiment, such a course is perhaps not absolutely indispensable, and it must further be admitted that those who adopt it follow the letter of at least one portion of St. Paul's advice[3]—they assuredly do not preach themselves; but even at the risk of sacrificing altruism to egotism, the young preacher will do well to eschew the practice. Apart from all higher considerations, it would seem that a proper self-respect should be sufficient to deter a clergyman from playing in the pulpit the rather questionable role of another man's proxy. He becomes at best only a species of improved phonograph; and, do what he will, his utterances, like those of the phonographic cylinder, will be mechanical rather than vivified or vivifying.

If there is one dictum on the subject of public speaking that may be accepted as the expression of an ultimate truth, it is this: The orator, be he of the first-rate or the fifth-rate class, must be in earnest. Earnestness in the public speaker, like charity in the Christian, is a supreme quality, supplying at need the lack of many others, but itself replaceable by none. It is, moreover, a quality that cannot be successfully feigned or counterfeited. The most illiterate, as readily as the most cultured audience, perceive when the speaker's tones ring false; and once the discovery is made, his further speech, while it may please the fancy or tickle the ear, will be radically impotent to stir the heart or persuade the will. Now it is obvious that there is a very great, if not an insuperable difficulty in the way of preaching the sermon of an another with the genuine earnestness that naturally accompanies the delivery of one's own; and hence the clergyman who adopts this first method of preparation can scarcely hope to speak effectively.

It is conceivable, of course, that form sterility of invention, barrenness of imagination, defective mental training, or other similar causes, a preacher may be really incapable of [184] composing a fit discourse; and in so extreme a case, St. Augustine and other writers on the subject say that he may avail himself of the sermons of another; but it is quite safe to assert that, of every twenty who do so avail themselves, nineteen are lacking, not in talent, but in industry. In composition, as in every other art, facility comes with practice, and inability to write is due far more frequently to the non-exertion of mental powers than to their non-existence. That the young priest finds the composition of an original sermon a hard, tedious and irksome task may possibly be his fault, or perhaps only his misfortune; but in either case the difficulty of the work certainly does not exempt him from its performance, especially as this difficulty will surely be found to decrease with each successive trial. Aversion to intellectual labor and sustained mental effort is quite intelligible to most men, but that it forms a valid reason for neglecting plain duties will hardly be urged by any.

If we suppose the preacher to be actuated, in using the discourses of another, by a motive still more ignoble than laziness, if we conceive that he is the slave of vanity and follows this course simply to acquire the fraudulent reputation of being a great preacher, we place him at once beyond the pale of every worthy man's sympathy or respect. Of all the ridiculous mortals that "play such fantastic tricks before high heaven as make the angels weep," none, we take it, is so thoroughly and contemptibly ludicrous as the clerical jack-daw, strutting about the altar or the pulpit in the borrowed plumage of another man's eloquence. The discourses of such a preacher cannot well be other than nugatory in themselves and ultimately disastrous to the speaker; for, while on the one hand it can scarcely be expected that the blessing of God will sanctify the ministry of a plagiarist from vanity, on the other it is more than reasonably certain that sooner or later his plagiarism will be detected and his claims to genuine eloquence discredited. "What a grand sermon Father Blank preached to-day!" said an emotional lady to a companion, a few years ago, as they were leaving a city church after High Mass. "Yes," was the somewhat critical [185] and quite unemotional reply; "yes, I have always liked that sermon and I read it frequently; but I confess I prefer that other one of Father Baker's, on 'The Lessons of Autumn.'"

Viewed from the standpoint of effectiveness in the preacher, or of utility to the congregation, a fifth-rate original sermon is worth at least five times as much as a first-rate borrowed one.

The second method of preparation is substantially the same as the first, and is open to the same general objections. In this second method the process is still plagiarism, but it is the patchwork system of plagiarizing, the preacher borrowing from several sources instead of one. This plan commonly entails more labor than does that of appropriating a complete discourse, and is so far, perhaps, less reprehensible; but it is questionable whether the results achieved are at all preferable. It is certain, in fact, that many of the so-called sermons that are the outcome of this method, far from being coherent discourses in which there appear a natural connection of parts and a logical sequence of thought, are mere literary crazy quilts, wherein all order and unity are conspicuously wanting. In endeavoring to adjust properly to each other passages that were never intended to be so adjusted, the writer almost unavoidably encounters the difficulty that beset a certain preacher who once consulted Father Potter of All Hallows. "I have taken great pains," said he, "to write out twelve or thirteen pages from the various French sermon books, and now, after all my trouble, I can't make them fit."

While neither of the foregoing methods of preparing oneself to preach can be recommended as calculated to produce sermons instinct with the life and vigor that impresses men's minds and move their hearts; still in each there is positive preparation, and, at worst, the young preacher who adopts either will be likely to say something, to announce correct doctrine, and to speak in a style not unbecoming God's Word.

There is a third method, negative rather than positive, from which it is too much to expect even these meagre [sic] results. This is the summary process that precedes extempore preaching, whether that process be the reading up of a [186] subject for an hour or two previous to speaking upon it, or the meditation of the proposed discourse during a like period of time, with the possible determining of the main ideas to be developed. As for strictly extempore speaking, speaking absolutely on the spur of the moment, it is so difficult to imagine that any young priest can have the hardihood to tempt Providence by its practice, that it need not be here considered.

As a justification or an excuse for the cursory preparation given to the quasi-extemporaneous sermon, it is sometimes contended that this plan approaches more nearly than any other to the apostolic method. The answer, if answer be needed, suggests itself: the method may be an excellent one—for apostles, or for those favored with apostolic gifts and surrounded by apostolic conditions; but it is probably not the best method for even the most experienced ordinary preacher, and it is certainly the worst for the young one. Only long years of careful practice in speaking and writing can form such habits of orderly thought and clear, forcible expression as will enable a preacher to improvise a sermon bearing any claim to the title of good. As a rule, such improvisations show an utter want of order, unity, force and clearness; and not rarely they lack most of all the quality which most of all should characterize them, brevity. It can scarcely be doubted that to this radical evil of preaching without sufficient premeditation, are to be attributed fully nine-tenths of those interminable monologues, without pith or point, which a suffering laity have learned to deplore as "long" sermons—rambling discourses in which, straying from their particular themes, the speakers range in haphazard fashion over the whole field of morals; fall into continual digressions; recover themselves by innumerable repetitions; and, aiming at nothing, take an unconscionable time in hitting it. Who has not listened for an hour to a preacher who with adequate preparation could have said his say and said it far more effectively too, in twenty minutes? Lacking this preparation he delivered a "bald, disjointed chat" in which indeed may have appeared the crude, undigested materials of a discourse, but which no more merited the name [187] of a real sermon than a confused heap of bricks and mortar, boards and shingles deserves to be called a house.

Perhaps no greater service could be rendered to the long-winded extempore preacher than to present him on Monday with a verbatim published report of his discourse of the previous day. Could he be prevailed upon to read the faithful transcript of his "eloquent sermon," to peruse at leisure just what windy nothings and prosy platitudes he said, and remark just how wretchedly he said them, it is tolerably certain that his next effort would be briefer, pithier, and in every way worthier of his office. The rebuke which a Scotch preacher once received from a half-witted member of his flock is oftener merited than administered. The parson's soporific truisms, long drawn out, had gradually produced their legitimate effect of lulling the congregation one by one into placid slumber. Rousing the delinquents by a smart blow on the desk before him, the indignant preacher reprimanded them severely for their gracelessness and inattention, adding that the only one of his hearers who had not been asleep was "the poor fool, Sandy."—"Yes"; interjected Sandy, "and if I were not a fool, I'd have been asleep, too."

A young priest cannot well make a graver mistake in the matter of preaching than to adopt this off-hand style of announcing God's Word. He owes it to the sanctity of that Word, to himself, and to his auditors, be they ever so unlettered, to make each of his sermons as good as is compatible with the measure of talent with which God has dowered him. He is bound in honor and justice to become, in the degree that is possible to him, one

"whose weighty sense
Flows in fit words and heavenly eloquence;"

and no course will so surely prevent his attainment of that ideal as preaching without due reflection and previous study.

The fourth method of preparation, and the only one thus far considered that merits approval, is that followed by probably the great majority of conscientious preachers. Briefly it consists in thinking out the whole sermon, but in writing merely its substance. What it supposes and involves may, [188] perhaps, be best understood from Fénélon's description of the pulpit orator whom he commends for preaching without having written his discourse. He speaks "of a man who is well instructed and has great facility of expression; a man who has meditated deeply, in all their bearings, the principles of the subject which he is to treat; who has conceived that subject in his intellect and arranged his arguments in the clearest manner; who has prepared a certain number of striking figures and touching sentiments, which may render it sensible and bring it home to his hearers; who knows perfectly well all that he is to say and the precise place in which to say it, so that nothing remains, at the moment of delivery, but to find words with which to express himself." There can be no question as to the thoroughness of such a preparation as this; and for the experienced preacher who has had years of practice in his ministry, it is, every thing considered, probably the best of all plans. For the young preacher, however, who has not yet had this practice, there is a still better method, that indicated in the initial paragraph of this paper.

Whether the arguments urged in general against the delivery from memory of written sermons be solid or flimsy (and flimsy some of them assuredly are), few will deny that this writing and memorizing is by far the best plan of action that the young priest can adopt. Even St. Liguori, who inveighs so strongly against preachers that are slaves of their memory, took good care to allow none of his younger Fathers to ascend the pulpit without their having previously written all that they were to say. The inconveniences to which this method is liable may be real, but, at least in the case of the youthful preacher, they are more than compensated for by the sterling advantages which it undoubtedly possesses. And the more gradual is the transition from this full and complete preparation to the less elaborate method mentioned in the preceding paragraph, the greater is the likelihood of the priest's eventually becoming a ready, forcible and effective minister of the divine Word.

A good formula for the actual composition of the sermon [189] is: some reading, more thinking, careful writing, and no "cribbing." Once the subject has been chosen, and the particular point of view from which it is to be treated determined, it will generally be found beneficial to read what has been written on the same theme by one or several good authors, and to study with the aid of a concordance those portions of Sacred Scripture which bear a special reference to the matter in hand. Having thus acquired an abundance of ideas relative to the subject, our young priest will do well to put aside his books and meditate these ideas, turning them over in his mind, observing how they adjust themselves to his preconceived notions, dwelling on the cognate sentiments which they suggest—in a word, digesting what he has read until it assimilates with his previous knowledge and becomes his own. Whether it be carried on currently with the writing or before that is begun, meditation is the most important and should be the lengthiest process in the building up of a discourse. It is superfluous to add that the more care the writer gives to the expression of his thought, the better will be his sermon. Knowing the mental status of the congregation whom he is to address, and the general culture, or want of it, that characterizes them, he will, of course, adapt his language, figures, allusions and illustrations to their particular capacities; but no degree of illiterateness in a prospective audience justifies negligence, either in the form of the discourse as a whole, or in the structure of its component parts. There is no more pernicious mistake than to suppose that a plain, simple, "common sense" instruction is removed from the sphere of rhetoric, or is not amenable to the laws of thought and expression. Apart from Scriptural texts, quotations should not be multiplied, and those employed should be credited to their proper sources. Stripped of all euphemistic phraseology, plagiarism is theft. No man, perhaps, can be original in what he says; but every man can and should be original in his way of saying it. Let the skeleton of his thought come from where it may, the flesh and blood that clothe it should be a part of himself.

On the degree of originality, thus understood, that a sermon [190] possesses, depends in a great measure the facility or difficulty of committing it to memory. The more of one's own and the fewer of other men's sentences it contains, the more readily will it be committed. And here it is to be remarked that the stereotyped criticism, "the preacher who delivers his sermon from memory has the appearance of a schoolboy reciting his task," if applicable at all, applies to those only who follow the first or second method of preparation which we have discussed, those who preach the sermons of others. Between the man who delivers his own sentiments and the schoolboy who recites the words of his text-book, there is no parallel, deadly or otherwise. The difficulty of learning a sermon after one has composed it has been a good deal exaggerated. Not a few preachers experience no difficulty whatever; they know their sermon as soon as they have completed its revision. These, perhaps, are exceptional cases; but, given a discourse of ordinary length, representing the outcome of a man's own earnest thought and studied composition, and a very few hours will suffice to memorize it so thoroughly that its delivery may be characterized by all the grace, ease and apparent spontaneity that mark the best extemporaneous speaking, so thoroughly, indeed, that the preacher may interpolate any striking thought that occurs to him on the spur of the moment, and then resume the thread of the original discourse without trouble or hesitation.

In any case, however great the difficulty experienced, either in writing or memorizing his sermon, the young priest will be amply rewarded therefor [sic] by the consciousness that, in ascending the pulpit to acquit himself of one of the most august of sacerdotal functions, he is free from the irreverence that cannot but attach to careless preparation, and is doing his best to promote the glory of God and secure the salvation of souls. True, after all is said and done, it is God alone who fructifies the sermon; but it is to be remembered that, if God gives the increase, the planting and watering is the work of the preacher. Fac tua, Deus sua faciet.

A. B. O'Neill, C.S.C.

---

Footnotes:

1. Mark xvi, 15.

2. Jerem. xlviii, 10.

3. II Cor. iv, 5.

---

Source: Arthur Barry O'Neill, "Young Preachers Careful and Careless," American Ecclesiastical Review 8 (March 1893): 180–190.