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Against Liturgical “Comprehensibility”

11 February, 2016 2 Comments

Are we smarter than St Augustine, who is said to have compared his attempt to understand the Trinity with a child’s attempt to fit the ocean into a hole he’d dug in the sand?

By Lyle Dunne

Lately I’ve had a number of conversations about Mass in the Extraordinary Form; one, arising out of an on-line discussion on this article (which I mentally subtitle as “And That’s Why We Can’t have Nice Things”) echoes a debate I’ve had with a number of friends and relatives over the years.

Their point, which they consider a knock-down-drag-out argument, is “surely the main thing is for everyone to be able to understand the words of the Mass?”

My usual response has been to say well, you have to remember it’s not primarily a conversation, and too much focus on the words risks missing the point.

But I’m starting to think “understanding” is more complicated than it looks.


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Who Would true Valour See…

21 January, 2016 0 Comments

Finally I decided to do something about it: I went on pilgrimage.

A personal note from the editor

Loyal readers will have noticed that not much new has appeared in these pages in recent times. This is due to a number of factors, including a technical hitch that prevented the site from appearing in its proper format (thanks to the unsung tech guys for fixing that), but mainly a disenchantment with the state of affairs in Rome – at best, a kind of “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything” sentiment – and an associated spiritual malaise.

Finally I decided to do something about it: I went on pilgrimage. Specifically, the Christus Rex Pilgrimage (see which commences in Ballarat and culminates in Bendigo with Mass for the Feast of Christ the King. This pilgrimage, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2015, is the biggest event in traditional Catholicism in Australia.


Photo: Patrick Giam

While it’s true the pilgrimage commences in Ballarat, I didn’t. The bad news is that the pace of pilgrimage is such that I decided I couldn’t sustain it for 3 days. The good news is there are plenty of young people – and one or two not so young, see below – who can. I joined at about the mid-point, midday Mass at Campbelltown on the Saturday.


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The unchangeable truth about marriage and sexuality

4 September, 2015 1 Comment
Bp Schneider Pulpit

Bishop Schneider preaching (Photo: Alan Shearer)

From the beginning it was not so” (Mt 19: 8)

The unchangeable truth about marriage and sexuality


This talk was given by Bishop Athanasius Schneider in Albury in June 2015 – Ed.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Word and the eternal Truth in person, restored the original dignity of human nature in a most wonderful manner (“Qui dignitatem humanae substantiae mirabilius reformasti”), and also the sexuality of the human being, which was created in a wonderful manner in the beginning (“mirabiliter condidisti”). The fall into sin had wounded the dignity of human sexuality. Because of the hard-heartedness of fallen man, Moses even introduced divorce, contrary to the absolute indissolubility of marriage which God had commanded. Although the Pharisees and Scribes had known the Divine truth about marriage from the beginning, they nevertheless endeavored to obtain from Jesus, as a well-known and recognized teacher, the legitimization of the practice of divorce, a practice which was already widely adopted in those times, perhaps out of “pastoral reasons”. (more…)

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The Liturgy as a Window to Another World

22 May, 2015 1 Comment

Martin Mosebach will be familiar to a number of readers as a trenchant traditionalist, and the author of The Heresy of Formlessness. The talk below is the best thing I’ve read on liturgy and tradition for a long time. Any traditionalist who can should read it – Ed.

It’s tricky with contemporaneity: when you try to grab and hold onto it, you end up holding the dead tail of a lizard in your hand. Arrested contemporaneity is necessarily always about to go out of date. The radical form of the liturgy, by contrast, cannot go out of date because it does not belong to time, but moves outside of time.

by Martin Mosebach, Roarate Caeli: address Given at Holy Innocents Parish, New York, May 12, 2015 – translation of a talk Mosebach was asked to give by the Bishop of Limburg/Lahn on Ash Wednesday 2013.

St Paul Cathedral, Munster, 1946. Photo: New Liturgical Movement

When it became apparent in the early 1950s that television sets would soon be in many households, German bishops deliberated about whether it would be wise to allow or even promote television broadcasts of the Holy Mass. Indeed, people thought about such questions sixty years ago and they asked the great philosopher Josef Pieper for an expert opinion. In his opinion, Pieper rejected such television broadcasts on principle, saying they were irreconcilable with the nature of the Holy Mass. In its origins, the Holy Mass is a discipline of the arcane, a sacred celebration of mysteries by the christened. He mentioned the lowest level in the order of priests – done away with following the Second Vatican Council – the ostiary, or doorkeeper, who once had to ensure that the non-baptized and those temporarily excluded leave the church and move to the narthex following the liturgy of the Word. The Orthodox still do so in some places; the call of the deacon, “Guard the doors” is heard in every Orthodox liturgy before the Eucharist. While in Georgia I once experienced this demand, often merely a ceremony of a recollected past, being taken literally. A monk approached me, fell to his knees and apologetically asked me to leave the church since I, as a Roman Catholic, was not in full agreement with the Orthodox Church. I gladly acquiesced as I think not everyone has to be permitted everywhere all the time. Sacred places and holy acts are first declared quite plainly by the drawing of boundaries and such boundaries must somehow be visible and palpable. Still, anyone who has not given any thought to the dubiousness of filming the Mass has perhaps on occasion felt uncomfortably moved when they saw believers receiving communion on television or as the camera rested on the face of a celebrant chewing the host. Are such feelings truly only atavistic, produced by ancient magical fears? Other cultures are also acquainted with an aversion to photography. It is as if it would disturb a spiritual sphere.

So it is all the more surprising that a photograph of a Mass has become very valuable to me.


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More on the Synod Questionnaire

19 May, 2015 0 Comments

I don’t really think that there are Vatican officials who get together over an espresso and say to one another “Let’s come up with a totally obscure document, and a questionnaire full of incomprehensible purple sentimentality, to discourage ordinary people from filling it out, and ensure that any answers we do get will be impossible to analyse, so that we can control the agenda. Mwahaha”. But I do think there’s an agenda here, which is to subvert the church’s traditional teaching on marriage.

by Lyle Dunne

After pleading with you all to complete the Synod questionnaire – thanks, to anyone who did; you deserve years off Purgatory – I completed it myself; there’s a copy below.

Before doing so, however, I began to have grave doubts (even graver than the ones I previously expressed) about the whole exercise.

Was it in fact an attempt to stifle public comment, or failing that, turn it into an incomprehensible welter of verbiage? Was it the result of a misunderstanding, whereby a document sent out to bishops as a basis for consultation was cut-and-pasted into an unanswerable questionnaire?

There certainly seems to have been a bit of the latter going on. As Patrick Kenny argues in the National Catholic Register, “the questions themselves were not designed for ordinary laypeople”.

(In fact many seem to be impossible for anyone to answer, as I think examples below show.)

He goes on to explain how this arose:

The idea of surveying laypeople seems to have arisen from a letter by Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the synod, asking that the entire document be distributed to deaneries and parishes so that feedback could be gathered from local sources. Somehow or other, this normal consultation process transformed into a rather haphazard series of diocesan “opinion polls” accompanied by potentially unreliable statistical analysis.

(Here he’s speaking of the first Synod document and questionnaire; it seems the second is a perpetuation of the same error.)


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