Amoris Laetitia Resource Page

May I draw the reader’s attention to a project that has been years in the making… There is now a tab on this website with a very long list of scholarly resources related to the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

Please use, share, and enjoy. We continue to pray for our dear Holy Father, Pope Francis, and his health and ministry.

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

What is TikTok? A Primer for Clergy

Eamonn Clark, STL

Dear Fathers – if you are unaware of the pervasiveness and influence of TikTok, you are way out of the loop. If you have never heard of it, then I welcome you back to Earth from your mission to the International Space Station… A lot has changed in the years you have been gone.

This app presents an absolutely immense pastoral challenge which anyone engaged in parochial ministry – or any ministry involving youth or parents – ought to be aware of.

Below, I offer a series of videos which will get you up to speed on what this thing is, how it works, and some reasons why it is so dangerous.

TikTok was the most visited website in the world last year – more than Google. You really do need to know what it is.

What worse kind of poison to a good education in faith and morals could there be than a thing such as this? How will souls attached to this thing ever be led into the beginnings of contemplative life?

The video above is a basic introduction to what TikTok is.
Incentivizing bad behavior – a subtle political maneuver?
I’m giving three videos from this YouTuber. He runs a gaming channel, so some clips are from games… if it looks like a video game, that’s not TikTok.
Top 50 most liked TikToks (as of a few months ago)
#trans videos racked up a whopping 27 billion hits last year. Take a look at what the kiddos are watching and being formed by.
Some #christian TikToks
A self-described reel of “progressive Catholic” TikToks… Not necessarily a lot of hits/views relatively speaking, but the fact that there is such a thing as a “LeftCath” community/group pushing weird stuff which will reaffirm emotionally vulnerable and poorly catechized kids is its own cause for concern (see the video’s description).
Another take on the dangers of TikTok, especially for girls.

My recommendation for any pastor in the developed world would be to work with your youth minister on a way of combating this problem. Really, I would recommend that basically every pastor have a small group of trusted young people keep him informed once a month of the most significant goings-on in the world of youth media… TikToks, memes, top-40 music, blogs, etc., so that Father is aware of what on earth the kids are up to. But maybe a good pastoral moment could be had by hosting an open forum for parents to address concerns that they have, for Father to talk about concerns that he has, and for the youth minister to talk about concerns he or she has. You could even team up with other parishes in the deanery. It’s an idea.

Fathers… Come up with a plan. The Devil has one… and it’s this.

The Time the Pope Got Mad at Me

Eamonn Clark, STL

I don’t usually post here about my personal life. But today I am making an exception – and it will probably be enough for a long time.

I want to be able to share all the details of this story, but it will have to wait a while. Probably not for some years. It is enough that I am even writing about this publicly at all.

This past summer, I and a few others, in a specific house of formation which had only begun to be established somewhere in Europe, attracted the attention of the Holy Father. Negative attention. You might remember the headline – about “rigid seminarians,” and men who had been dismissed from formation. It was brought up in the context of the Pope’s speech to the annual meeting of the Italian bishops’ conference.

It was a speech about my house. Certainly not only about my house, but it was especially aimed at it. He had only been informed of our house a few days prior, and the two unique factors of the place were that all of the men leaned heavily towards more traditional modes of clerical life and certainly preferred the TLM, and all of us had been asked to leave another formation program before. Cardinal Stella, then-outgoing prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, had been personally reviewing candidates for this house.

It didn’t work out.

After the speech, there was a meeting, and a confrontation, between figures I won’t name. The gist was that to stay in the house, the men all needed to forget the “trad” stuff and be “normal” seminarians… “No,” was the answer from the house. The reply was the ecclesiastical version of, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

A benign take would be that this was a frantic reaction to the rumblings about “Traditionis Custodes” being released soon, and everyone was caught off guard and started to protect themselves at the cost of a few fledgling vocations. A more cynical take would be that all this had been orchestrated as some kind of stunt. Maybe it was somewhere in between.

I recently heard a quip that the post-Conciliar Church is the only place where men in their 70’s and 80’s are telling men in their 20’s and 30’s to “get with the times.” It’s all very strange, awkward, and unseemly. And it needlessly repels priestly vocations.

I returned to study and to work in Rome. Most of the other men are still in formation, and I may yet rejoin them. If you are interested in supporting them/us, please let me know through the “Contact” tab. I am happy to explain more of the details of our situation in private, and explain to you how you could help. In many situations, seminary education needs to be paid for by the seminarian himself… This is such a situation, and there is even more to it. Please consider reaching out.

Anyway, this was my second time exiting a formation program. There have been some news stories of late – some of which I have been rather close to – of men with very unhappy exits.

My second exit, this past summer, was more strange than difficult. Thankfully, I was able to move back into Rome without too much trouble. But my first exit, from a normal diocese in the USA, was very hard.

I think the most significant lessons I took from the earlier, more difficult experience were the following… and this is advice which I offer to men who might be quite salty after a bad exit…

First, in human conflict, the truth is normally in the middle. The chances are, if you are getting the boot, you probably messed up, and so did they. (Sometimes it’s one-sided, but usually not.) The reality is that, in this case, your mistakes matter more than theirs. Do not be scandalized by the partial Judas-nature of some chancery official or parish supervisor or seminary professor you think screwed you over, as he is not the Lord, and you are imperfect too. Saul was literally hunting David, and yet David was ashamed even to cut Saul’s cloak, as Saul held the office of king of Israel. So don’t needlessly badmouth your former superiors just because they “persecuted” you a bit. Embrace the cross and become a better Christian for it.

Second, the most important identity you have is as an individual disciple of Christ who has the chance to enjoy Beatitude if you bear your crosses well. Doing this or that in life is secondary, including priesthood or religious life. Really, the only great achievement that exists is to get to Heaven, which is something that we can only do with help from God.

Third, you don’t know everything. Even when you really do know better than those responsible for forming you, whether it’s liturgy, canon law, sacramental theology, or whatever, you can probably still learn something from them if you were to just shut up a bit. The child Jesus actually knew everything and He stayed pretty much silent for 30 years… The least a seminarian can do is stay quiet for 6. What’s more, over time, that “boomer” priest you secretly mock with your sem buddies might actually be willing to admit to you under his breath that his formation wasn’t the best and then even would maybe consider listening to you about following the rubrics or what the Church really teaches about x, y, or z, but only if you show him that you’re not a know-it-all jerkwad and that in fact you just really love Jesus and want to be the best help you can be to “Father Boomer” and the parish he serves.

So that was the rubbing alcohol. Here’s the balm.

Leaving, especially being shown the door, can hurt a lot. And there is really not much which the Church offers such men. This is why, over the past few years, I have been compiling some advice for men entering and leaving formation. I think I first had this idea after reading an article at HPR on the dearth of pastoral assistance for women leaving religious life. You will now find a tab on this website which is the fruit of the labor of many hands. It is still under development, but I think it is ready to share with the world. It will be updated from time to time. If you have something to add – only if you have personally experienced an entry or an exit, especially within the last 20 or so years – let me know.

In addition to this resource page, I would also like to announce that I am establishing an informal temp agency for men who leave seminary. I already have a few employers interested, but I need more, especially for next year. (We will run a small “beta-test” this spring.) If you are a Catholic employer in the USA, especially on the East coast, and you are interested in taking an interview with a man leaving seminary maybe this spring or definitely next spring, please tell me through the “Contact” tab, and we can talk about it. Likewise, if you are a seminarian who is leaving this spring, or have left within the past few years or so and are struggling, contact me. I will listen to your story, and I will try my best to put you in touch with someone who might be interested in employing you for more than junk wages and will care about your experience and your soul. (It’s not a promise of employment, it’s just a promise to try.) This program is for men who left on their own or were asked to leave (for non-crazy reasons, i.e. abuse, theft, fraud, violence, etc.), whether they want to go back into formation, don’t want to go back into formation, or aren’t sure yet and just need to survive in the meantime. These will NOT be parish or diocesan jobs, nor Catholic school jobs… This is “normal work.” There are other Catholic jobs websites which advertise such positions, but I can tell you that it is often unhealthy for a man to go into such an environment after leaving seminary. It is sometimes better to “go be normal” for a while.

More big news coming soon… but that’s enough for now. Please prayerfully consider supporting some vocations financially – just send me a note.

Intercession and Science

An oldie but a goodie. More fresh content coming soon.

Christian Renaissance Movement

Once in a while some zealous atheist, agnostic, or deist will throw down a challenge: “If God answers prayers, we should be able to prove it with an experiment. But we see no statistically significant difference between groups of sick people who are prayed for and groups who are not. Therefore: A) there is no God, or B) we can’t be sure if there is a God, or  C) God does not involve Himself with us.”

It seems like a strong argument at first. If God really does respond to intercession, then we ought to be able to observe that response in contrast with a lack of response corresponding to a lack of intercession. Intercession is an action, healing or whatever response is or would be an equal and opposite reaction, while on the other hand whatever is in motion tends to stay in motion – those who are sick or…

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My New Year’s Predictions

It’s about that time.

How did I do last year?

1 – The Salesians, the second largest religious order in the world at about 14,800, will come within 1,000 members of the Jesuits (about 16,000) (NO)

2 – There will be a new most-viewed video on YouTube (YES – Baby Shark FTW!)

3 – Jordan Peterson will convert to Christianity (NO – not yet, but seeming very close…)

4 – I will complete the “Bring Sally Up” pull-up challenge (NO – haven’t bothered trying…)

5 – Ven. Fulton Sheen’s beatification will be (re-)announced (NO)

6 – It will not snow in Rome (YES)

7 – Bougainville will gain its national independence (NO)

8 – The Buccaneers will win the Superbowl (YES)

9 – No new voting-age American cardinals will be created (YES – in fact, no new cardinals were created at all)

10 – Another James Damore-type incident will happen in Big Tech (NO)

4/10… let’s see if we can do better this time.

1 – There will still be an indoor mask-mandate in most provinces of Italy after October 1.

2 – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will live through the year.

3 – Kyle Rittenhouse will announce lawsuits totaling over $1 billion in claims.

4 – China will not admit that it had a lab leak in Wuhan.

5 – There will not be a significant military event in Israel and Palestine (no lives lost).

6 – CNN will no longer be on the air.

7 – Google will buy Netflix.

8 – The Vatican finance trial will not be finished.

9 – UCLA will win March Madness.

10 – Elon Musk will officially announce a mission to Mars.

The Pandemic is Over

Eamonn Clark, STL

I have held off for a long, long time on writing about Covid. It has been a difficult exercise in restraint for me. Hopefully, readers will therefore appreciate that the points I am about to make are not “shooting from the hip” or any such thing.

Because I initially committed not to writing on this at all, as it is rather boring and unhelpful to spit in the ocean, this will likely be my only real post on SARS-CoV-2, unless we are still dealing with this issue as a world in another “15 days”…

All lives matter, therefore all deaths matter. I find it awful that anyone would contract a respiratory illness and succumb to it. But this does not negate the following important points.

  1. Covid has a rather low mortality rate, especially among the young and healthy. The average healthy child (under 18) is more likely to be struck by lightning than to die from Covid, and the average driver/rider of average cars is FAR more likely to die from a car crash than from Covid (about 1/1,100 people). The average age for death from Covid in many places is either approximately the same or even above the average age of death from any cause. Also, everyone is going to die – the point of life is not simply staying alive, it is virtue, flourishing, preparing for and striving for Heaven.
  2. Extraordinary means, including extraordinary expenses, are generally not obligatory to save any particular person’s life, even when those means are certain to be effective. We are not so certain that much of what has been done in a rash attempt to save individually unidentifiable people has been particularly effective, and it has certainly caused much collateral damage in terms of psychological, social, economic, and even medical harm. Rightly ordered love comes only after the acquisition of knowledge.
  3. Those who claim the mantle of “Science” are often engaged in pseudoscience in the strictest sense, and often this seems to be done in the service of personal and professional gain. “If they had only locked down more/worn more masks/took more vaccines, they would have done better.” The question is begged. That’s not science, it’s irrational dogma parading as science, as is the choking of discussion about treatment options and demonizing those who dare disagree with “The Science” who are plenty qualified to write prescriptions, run clinical trials, and evaluate such things.
  4. Masks don’t really work, and neither do lockdowns – unless you are doing something really extraordinary with either. Hand sanitizer is also practically useless for Covid, which if I recall, has been known by people as unqualified as myself since late spring of 2020. (The lines and arrows on the ground… well, I guess we are still waiting on those numbers.) The typical stuff which we are now used to is just not effective to any noticeable degree. (Here is a great game to play which helps to prove the point.) I don’t know how this can even continue to be a debate at this stage. In fact, the recommendations about masks in particular were made by certain three-letter organizations back when they embarrassingly insisted that they were right and others were wrong about how Covid spread – until they realized they were actually wrong and quietly changed their position on the issue, without changing their public policy recommendations so as not to draw too much attention to their ineptitude.
  5. Even if the more perverse policies were effective, this does not answer the question of whether they are worth it. Real empirical science gives us data but does not tell us how to value goods based on that data – only “The Science” does that.
  6. It has become unreasonable to say that vaccines prevent infection or transmission in the long-term. One must wonder if this was part of a “repeat business” strategy on the part of companies standing to make hundreds of billions of dollars, a constant stream of income from taxes and newly printed currency. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe “Trump’s Vaccine” which was evil and super-scary before has become so good because people stand to benefit financially from switching teams.
  7. Perverse financial incentives plague the Covid system from top to bottom, and at this point one must really be blind not to see this. It is not for health and safety that to travel one needs a test here, another test there, a self-funded quarantine, and then another test. As Qoheleth says, “Money answers all questions.” (Ecclesiastes 10:19) One must also wonder in certain countries about coordinated efforts by organized crime and by socialist parties to bring about the end of a large private sector which they do not have a death grip on through backrooms. Desperate small businesses either close during lockdowns, or they get loans from unsavory characters…
  8. It is reasonable to have reservations about adverse reactions from the vaccines, both in the short-term and in the very unknown long-term.
  9. The emaciation of intermediary associations like clubs, guilds, unions, etc. is one of the gravest social evils of our time. Social media is no replacement for directed, organized associations with particular aims that draw people together for the sake of lobbying for those aims. Major, non-violent, credible threats “from below” are almost impossible to make in the developed world right now.
  10. The vaccines are not intrinsically evil to take or to administer, despite their distant immoral origins in abortion. However, that does not mean they are moral to take in every case, such as one being convinced of a serious danger for their own health, or having a prudential concern about supporting the destruction of the principle of autonomy, both of which derive from Catholic moral theology quite directly and could thus be appealed to reasonably in addition to one’s disgust and concern about the use of illicitly obtained cell-lines which could also be grounds for objection in view of one’s own unnecessary act of supporting an illicit industry and practice, vis-à-vis one’s own actual individual estimation of the benefit of defense against Covid. Furthermore, a conscience objection could also have the motivation that one feels compelled to speak against a particular system or program and this is the best way to do it. These considerations were almost totally missed in all of the discussions about conscience objections in the Catholic world.
  11. In my professional estimation as a moralist, it is generally mortal sin for a pastor or bishop to meaningfully exceed the demands imposed by civil authority in limiting access to the sacraments and regular worship due to public health concerns like Covid.
  12. In St. Alphonsus Liguori’s much more professional estimation as patron saint of moralists, parish priests (pastors) are specially bound to administer the sacraments to the dying during time of plague when nobody else is available when the need for the sacraments is extreme or even only grave, even if such assistance is likely or even certain to be fatal for the priest. (See Theologia Moralis, Book IV, #358 – a topic which ought to be more explored these days.)
  13. This is probably only the beginning of a long battle over social credit. If you do not know what an algocracy is, educate yourself. We are poised to begin creating one… the “Green Pass” system can now be used to include, for example, one’s carbon footprint, one’s purchases, other medical information, and so on. If you have been a “good citizen,” doing “correct things,” you will be able to do more for less money. And simply trying to avoid conflict over this kind of thing will not only mean losing the conflict which one is trying to avoid, it means inviting more conflict later on with more serious consequences. It was just supposed to be 15 days, remember…
  14. A lot of “crazies” are actually really smart. Like the so-called “Brostradamus” (video from September of 2020). I am reminded of the parable told by Kierkegaard about a clown crying out in a village that the circus is on fire and that everyone needs to hurry to protect themselves. They laugh and cheer him on, he becomes more animated, they laugh and cheer more, and then the town burns to the ground. Those who are dismissed as “conspiracy theorists” are sometimes very well-read in history and medicine etc. but are just bad at self-branding and presentation.
  15. Most of the “narratives” are partly true. There is indeed a cabal of globalist billionaires who want to control the world, but this is not sufficient to explain everything; nor is a bunch of health experts with nothing but good will sufficient to explain what is going on. The real narrative is complex.
  16. Why people disagree so fiercely over Covid and how to respond to it is a function of several factors, including the intellectual laziness of preferring a simple narrative to a complex but more accurate one. Tribalism is unhealthy for the truth-seeker, and truth-seeking is necessary for good-seeking (knowledge, then love). Of course, many serious goods are on the line and are set up as being opposed to each other as alternatives – protecting biological life and health vs. principles of liberty which are ordered toward living a good common life… so it is understandable and actually good that people are angry about the issue, as injustices against life or liberty are very bad injustices indeed. This is compounded by various exposures to differently organized data sets, and different values which interpret data sets in light of a predisposition to or away from collectivism, and all this is augmented by people’s varying temperaments.
  17. The prevalence of the daughters of lust have dumbed down public discourse in general and led many people into despair of the goods of the next world such that they are apt to fixate on biological health to the neglect of social and spiritual health.
  18. Many comparisons have been made to Nazi Germany. Most of them have been overblown. However, the 1930’s came from the 1920’s. Most interestingly, the Jews were the object of fear in Italy, but the object of disgust in Germany. Disgust is often a more powerful incentive to repulsion/suppression/aversion. Now, we have the confluence of these two forces in the “unclean” people who have not done what the regime has indicated will make them “clean.” Simply not having reached a certain point in public policy does not mean it will not or cannot come… as history shows, the future comes after the past. It is important to make sure our future is not the way the 1930’s were to the 1920’s.
  19. It is obvious that there is a pseudo-religion present in the Covid “structure.” There is a sacramental system, special clothing, prophetic and priestly castes, a protology, an eschatology, a moral system, and special language. Heretics are not tolerated publicly. This is Covidism. In this case, I encourage people to be “spiritual” but not “religious.”
  20. Ideology develops its own interior life and logic. Havel describes this in great detail in his must-read book “The Power of the Powerless.” Many who do not believe in Covidism are too afraid to “live within the truth” to ignore the social pressure to conform to a system of rules and regulations which one does not believe in. To take Havel’s example, the greengrocer who takes down the Communist sign in his shop window becomes a massive threat to the post-totalitarian regime by making others aware that they can do this too – and that is very scary indeed. Even those who seem like they have real control are often only servants of the ideology and will be dispensed with if and when they deviate, including being dispensed with by other people who do not agree with the ideology but are afraid of being dispensed with themselves…

Well, there you have it. My 2 cents. I could say more, especially about the knowledge-love paradigm (and how central planning is such a bad idea because of this dynamic being ruined), but this is probably enough for now… see you in another “15 days,” perhaps… In the meantime, the pandemic is over – it is now a worldwide endemic. Covid is here to stay forever in constantly changing forms, and there is really nothing we can do about it. So relax, go for a walk, and live your life – in the truth.

The Oratorio – Opening Speech, 2021

Below is this year’s opening speech for my men’s group which I run here in Rome, the Oratorio, which I delivered some weeks ago. Enjoy!

The Catacomb Option

Cancel culture. Safe spaces. Hate speech. Green passes. It’s enough to make one’s head spin, and that’s just a little bit of what has come in the past few years.

Just as God sows seeds, and the Evil One rips them up, as the Parable of the Sower tells us, so too it seems that the inverse holds true: the Evil One sows seeds, and God rips them up. If we are to take at face value the alleged prophecy given to Leo XIII about the 20th century being the Devil’s “free reign” or playground to do as much damage as he liked – a kind of “new Job” – then we should consider that evil not only wounds those who are its object in the moment, but it leaves poisonous traces and echoes; it plants seeds which eventually become trees that bear rotten fruit if not torn up. So, on this All Hallows’ Eve, let’s look at some demonic seeds that have been sown, and then look at how they might be ripped up – or how the trees might be cut down.

From 1900 to 2000 we find a small number of evil orchards being planted. While the obvious candidates are the world wars, I suggest that these, while terrible indeed, are a smoke screen for the “long game.” We are not to fear those who can kill the body and do no more, and wars in and of themselves take lives, not souls. Just as with possession and other extraordinary diabolical phenomena, the real point of the Enemy is to turn souls to sin. It is easy to say the Devil was in the wars, just as it is easy to say he is in a body that speaks strange languages or floats around or any number of phenomena which mimic the extraordinary actions of the Holy Spirit. It is much more difficult, for the uninitiated, to identify the Devil’s presence in sin, and even more difficult to see him in occasions to sin.

But the Devil always shows his feet, as the saying goes. Just as the proud Odysseus couldn’t help but taunt the blinded Cyclops by shouting his real name, bringing down the wrath of Poseidon upon him and his ship, so too is the Devil proud. He can never have a truly silent victory – he wants the credit, after all.

I propose that many of our troubles can be traced one year in particular: 1968. It was this year that perhaps best symbolizes the beginning in earnest of the “sexual revolution” and the onset of cultural Marxism and the habitual extension of adolescence – also known as “hippiedom.”

These are three particularly bad seeds, the final fruits of which we are now seeing before us in today’s Western world. We take them in order.

I doubt I need to convince anyone here of the grotesqueness of the sexual revolution, but perhaps it is helpful to drive the point home by sharply distinguishing natural sexual vice and unnatural sexual vice. The former consists fundamentally in extra-marital relations of various kinds, modified by the object or mode of action. It’s true that some species take in other sins which are not sexual, such as violence or sacrilege which greatly aggravate the offensiveness of the sin, but insofar as such acts are sexual, they remain of a lesser kind of disorder than those which are part of unnatural vice. Whereas the category of natural vice is immoral principally because it hurts kids, namely, those which could be conceived out of the safety of wedlock and thus be exposed to many kinds of dangers in their upbringing, unnatural vice is immoral because it hijacks the sexual faculty away from the design of God for the propagation of the human race, for which the sexual faculty chiefly exists for in the first place, and reorders it towards something at odds with that plan; in short, unnatural vice is wrong because it hurts the human race. Just as a single act of fornication might not actually result in the harm of a child, especially if no child is conceived, a single act of self-abuse or sodomy might not result in the harm of the future of humanity, especially if it is not encouraged, imitated, celebrated. And yet many children are conceived out of wedlock, and unnatural acts are now not only tolerated but glorified in the western world. It is much less evil to allow some individual children to grow up without fathers than it is to have the entire principle of human sexuality undermined by a positive campaign of encouragement, imitation, and celebration. The former leads to the search for replacements for fathers, usually meaning the creation of gangs in the case of boys and brothels in the case of girls and a self-serving welfare state with economically atrophied populations dependent upon hand-outs which over time they feel increasingly entitled to. The latter leads almost directly to spiritual sins. The former leads to its own problems with the Second Tablet – lies, promiscuity, violence, and disobedience towards and dishonoring of civil society. The latter leads to problems with the First Tablet – a complete collapse of the virtue of religion. The former is obviously and viscerally evil to the careless onlooker, just like a war would seem. But the Devil is more present in the latter.

Unnatural vice, including the use of contraceptives, which became so popular in 1968 that the Pope intervened with the encyclical Humanae Vitae, is a greater sexual disorder than natural vice. The daughters of lust, or the effects of lust on the individual sinner, are therefore more quickly and more strongly rooted in those taken in by self-abuse, contraception, and homosexual acts than in those who simply sleep around. The daughters are eight, four affecting the intellect, four affecting the will. They are: blindness of mind, thoughtlessness, inconstancy, rashness, self-love, hatred of God, love of this world, and despair of the next world. It would be difficult to summarize better the current state of western civilization in as few words as these. Even for those who are not themselves mired in sexual vice, the overall long-term effect of the proliferation of sexual sins since 1968 has contributed to a general dumbing down of discourse, especially spiritual discourse, and an overall de-spiritualization to our understanding and practice of the virtue of religion, especially in the liturgy, and to our understanding of how to relate with other human beings in the communal search for goodness and truth. Unnatural vice in particular creates a kind of lack of fortitude, such that Thomas calls self-abuse “effeminacy.” If we gather all these data – the daughters of lust in general having become the social milieu in the west, together with the propagation of vices which especially lead to or characterize “softness,” or a lack of fortitude, we can understand a good deal about the state of things in our world right now, including, I suggest, how and why a mild respiratory illness coupled with a bit of media hype can cause mass psychosis.

With all of this intellectual darkness and weakness of will, the western youth need protection – not just from mild respiratory illnesses – and certainly not from China or from unchecked immigrants from Latin America or the Middle East – but from ideas which cause them discomfort by suggesting they are individually responsible for their own actions, that they are not owed anything just for existing but must actually earn a living by real work, that they cannot be whatever they want to be, and that “their truth” does not exist. Because of the emaciation of the intellect and will and their right interaction, or, as C. S. Lewis would put it, “men without chests,” unwelcome speech has become physical violence – because I am unable to think and process an unwelcome thought which causes me physical discomfort, “hate speech” is actually physically violent, thus it can justify physical violence in return. So goes the logic. Of course, the weak are still empowered by sufficient grace to do God’s will, so they are not therefore excused from sin on account of weakness.

Just as the welfare state serves itself by creating more patrons who are increasingly dependent, so too does “cancel culture” serve itself by taking hostage the intellect and will which are mired in the daughters of lust. The more “intersectional” one is, the more one ought to be protected and favored – race, sexuality and gender, nationality, creed, even health and bodyweight, could all remove individual responsibility. This is what “social justice” has become, a once solid neothomistic idea serving as a foil to subsidiarity which is now the method of cultural Marxism. The minorities are always oppressed, simply in virtue of being the minority, so they ought to be allowed to dominate over the majority and thus be liberated. We owe this unhappy thought to Herbert Marcuse, who was the intellectual father-figure of the radicalized youth of 1968.

The student revolt in Paris in May of that year – which became so bad that not only were sections of the University of Paris shut down, but President Charles de Gaulle actually fled France for a short time – was a reaction against what was perceived as an unjust bureaucracy plagued by “consumerism,” a system that needed reform, revolution, reconstruction by the newly allied Socialists and Communists of France, in view of a creative utopia There is perhaps some truth to there having been a depressing, machine-like malaise of 1960’s bureaucracy – let alone French bureaucracy – but an overbearing system which generally works for the right values still ought to be respected, just like an overbearing parent with right intentions. We expect little kids and teenagers to act like spoiled brats and throw a fit when they don’t get their way. We now expect college students to do the same, instead of having their minds opened to classic literature, honing professional skills, and so on. And then they complain that their loans should be paid off with tax dollars. “Jouissez sans entraves,” went one slogan of the Parisian students – enjoy without hindrance. Indeed.

And so the cycle of dependence and sin and the daughters of lust continues, on and on. Perhaps – or even probably – the deeper roots of all of this are found in nominalism and voluntarism, but we will leave aside such an analysis today.

What is the solution? Is there one, other than grace, or the end of the world? What can we sane people do to protect themselves from the cultural onslaught, and perhaps soon, espionage and even physical threats?

Ten years after 1968, a lengthy essay was written by one Václav Havel, later to become the last President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic. Havel had been a major figure on the right side of Czechoslovakia’s own troubles in ’68, with the Prague Spring which was shut down by the Warsaw Pact troops from Germany and the USSR. Reflecting on all of this, in “The Power of the Powerless,” Havel describes the dynamic of ideology and dissent from ideology. A bad idea with just a little truth to it can overtake a population and a bureaucracy to such a degree that even those who seem to have power do not – they are beholden to the ideology, which has its own inner life. All are afraid of being held accountable to the ideology, including by others who do not believe in it. The greengrocer who puts up a pro-Communist sign in his window is not really a Communist, he is just “not-not Communist,” and he wants everyone to know that he is doing what he has been told so he can avoid conflict. This should sound especially familiar these days, as we endure the ideology of “Covidism,” but it holds true as well for discussing frankly in open fora the moral and religious values which we hold as Catholics, some of which we have just been exploring and would most certainly be cancelled for.

Havel’s thesis is something in between a program and a prediction. Human beings want to live in the truth, according to pre-political commitments and values. We want to be authentic, true to ourselves. We want the freedom to speak, to write, to disagree, to create art, even if it is bad art. Interestingly, Havel notes that one of the main tipping points in Czechoslovakia in the post-totalitarian regime which he is describing was not some famous dissident like himself publishing an essay like the one he was currently writing, but it was the public trial of a mediocre punk-rock group for not staying in line with the status quo. The trial woke people up to the reality of their situation, and Charter 77, one of the most significant moments in Czechoslovakian political history, came as a result, eventually leading to the Velvet Revolution, Havel’s own presidency, and finally the dissolution of the country. Havel notes how odd it is that this would come from the persecution of an underground rock band. It helps to demonstrate his thesis that the natural quest to live within the truth is the most threatening thing to the power of ideology – it declares that the emperor has no clothes, and it thus frees others to do the same.

While I doubt most of us are interested in playing punk-rock, we are interested in other activities and ideas which are increasingly viewed with suspicion and even outright hostility by those who tend the Devil’s rotten orchard. Rod Dreher’s book “The Benedict Option” presents a vision which ought to provoke deep personal and communal reflection. Is western civilization not worth trying to save anymore through traditional means? Probably not. But heading for the hills is not exactly possible, nor is imitating the life of Benedict advisable for most people. While this is not precisely the suggestion of Dreher or others who follow him, there is a group which we are well-familiar with which provides us with a model for Catholic life today. It is the same group whose old neighborhood we are now presently in, the Suburra, the original “sub-urb”; it is the early Christians of Rome.

May I present to you the Catacomb Option. The first thing to know is that Christians never lived in catacombs – anyone who has visited should be able to tell you that the air is toxic and thus is not a place to stay for too long. Instead, the catacombs, which were originally mines that were turned into burial grounds, were essentially the “side-streets of the side-streets.” Just as police in major cities know that criminals are on such streets plying their trades, as long as they are not on the main roads they are often more or less left alone. It is just too much effort to go chasing down every single lowlife down every single alley. It was likewise with our brothers and sisters in the first centuries here in the City up until Constantine. Everyone knew what was going on in the catacombs, but it was not the Forum and not even the Suburra. It was out in the graveyards by the farms. “Who cares? Just leave them alone, we will keep an eye on them.” So went the thought of most emperors. Well, as we can see, the quiet and patient pursuit of holiness in a “parallel society,” literally underground, without much energy spent trying to convert the City eventually bore fruit over and against the wild paganism of ancient Rome. They prayed, they celebrated the sacraments, they improved themselves, they kept quiet and out of sight, and God came down to help. Perhaps there is a lesson here.

Most of us cannot head out into the mountains to form monasteries like Benedict, or even form real intentional and cohesive communities of families, given the way life is today, though both of these endeavors are good. The path, then, is something a bit different. We need to be creating spaces for free exchanges of ideas, and groups which can function as intermediary associations when appropriate to keep the “system” at bay. The system needs to be bypassed, because we can’t simply face it on our own. We are worse off than Havel’s greengrocer. We need groups and clubs and networks with negotiating power, we need ways to communicate, we need space to be ourselves and to live within the truth as we wait for God’s extraordinary help in reconverting the West, if He wants to do so. We can’t rip up the Devil’s seeds, but God can and eventually will, even if this is simply by leading structures of sin to self-destruction, not so unlike the Midianite camp in the face of sudden threat from Gideon’s small but terrifying army. (Judges 7:17-22)

That is one of the goals of this group. The Oratorio is here for such things – less for intermediation, more for communication and authentic self-expression, in prayer, recreation, and fraternity. This is a “safe space” for Catholic lay men, to share ideas, to engage in masculine vulnerability, to aspire to the Greatest Good. There’s nothing toxic about such masculinity! Welcome, brothers, and I look forward to praying and playing with you.

I’m a big-time blogger now

Dear Readers,

This blog has been slowly but steadily growing over the past five (!) years. Thank you for sticking with me… It has been a very profitable endeavor for me and hopefully for many others. I look forward to another five years and more.

On that note, I’m happy to announce a partnership in a cooperative project with some other Catholic bloggers.

It’s called “Fœdus” – you may recognize some of the names/sites there. It’s a growing community with a site which provides a rolling feed of posts from every blog associated with it. Check it out!

I am happy and blessed to be moving on up in the Catholic blogosphere. Thanks for reading and subscribing!

-Eamonn

On the Motu Proprio “Traditionis Custodes”

Eamonn Clark, STL

Some things which are helpful for the continued consideration and implementation of “Traditionis Custodes” (TC) are below, as well as some of my own personal thoughts/observations:

St. Thomas on the changeability of human laws, as to improvements and as to the force of custom

Canons 85, 87, and 90 of the CIC – See Bishop Paprocki’s letter to his diocese for an example of this in action

Those who comment on the TLM as being full of “schismatics,” “division,” etc., have probably not spent very much time around large communities that are centered around the TLM and spend too much time reading blogs. It’s an off-base assessment, even if there is a kernel of truth.

Some “trads” really are too “rad.” They are their own worst enemy. Especially those who have remained around parishes/shrines/ministries without canonical irregularities, they will now have the opportunity to welcome or scare away all kinds of Curious Georges who have read about the TLM in the news and want to see what all the buzz is about. They need to play extra nice for a while.

There are plenty of new Mass advocates who are just as problematic as the rad trads, just in the opposite direction. They should sit this one out.

Following closely on that, those who think that the old Mass is causing problems and that it should therefore be done away with think much like those who are of the persuasion that “Facebook is killing people” and a sex-change operation will help those suffering the psychological disorder called “gender-dyshporia.” When there is a problem, it seems that as a general rule the true proximate efficient (“pushing”) cause has to be identified and addressed on the level which it actually exists. Biological problems call for medicine, psychological problems call for therapy, and spiritual problems call for spiritual remedies (good preaching, good confessing, more prayer, more fasting, etc.). A legal or liturgical remedy for a non-legal and non-liturgical problem is likely to cause more problems than it will fix, just like shutting down free speech on social media or cutting someone’s body apart to make them feel better about themselves.

It’s not clear what the right demographic is to measure how “popular” the old Mass really is. It’s certainly not “how many Masses/locations/attendees.” It is probably something more like “how many people discover the TLM and prefer it to the new Mass.” This is a more difficult number to find, but it would be possible if really desired.

Sociological studies have never before been used to determine how to legislate regarding the liturgy, at least as far as I am aware. And we do not even know precisely what the results of the survey were. It is odd, unprecedented, and unhelpful.

The predictions that TC will cause more division than unity are already coming true.

Many critics of the old Mass think that the preference is about taste. Perhaps it is for some, but many or even most TLM advocates have the opinion that the old Mass is not just subjectively better, like chocolate vs. vanilla, but is objectively better. It will behoove TLM supporters to explain why in great detail, and it will behoove critics to listen.

Pope Francis and those surrounding him ideologically truly believe that the liturgical reform was a special act of the Holy Spirit. This explains that somewhat bizarre statement of the Holy Father from some years ago during an address to Italian liturgists (August 24, 2017): “We can affirm with certainty and with magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible,” with the call to avoid “superficial readings, partial receptions, and practices that disfigure it.” Anyone who wants to address the real concerns of the cadre of prelates involved in drafting TC and pushing it will have to contend with this critical hermeneutic. It is just not subtle enough to dismiss them as “modernists” or “bullies” or what have you. They believe what they are doing is from God and defended by God. If you disagree, you will have to explain why without the ad hominem arguments, which will only solidify them in their opinion.

On the more practical side, TC is sloppily written, full of loopholes which are ripe for various kinds of exploitation. We will see many clergy take a “lacuna matata” kind of attitude, making broad use of the ambiguities in favor of their own desires – good or bad, it is just a fact. There has not been enough time for a lot of great canonical takes on TC, but be on the lookout.

I am not sure that the answer to my question in my previous TC post about whether a pope could suppress the Eastern liturgies is “yes.” We need to have the discussion about just how much the liturgy in its various forms belongs to the whole Church, which therefore acquires rights over their use. That discussion will need to be held by people better educated on these things than me…

For a while, this will be my last post on the Motu Proprio. More could certainly be said, but these are some things which I have not seen talked about so much which I think could help a fruitful discussion. Pray for the Holy Father, and for all bishops, to whom we owe due obedience and filial devotion, even when we think they act badly.

Comments are off.