Archive for February, 2010

Have you read William Lind’s on Pope Benedict’s Counter-Reformation?  Writing in the American Conservative, Lind points the way forward toward the reunion of the Western Church.  His position may be utopian, but it is right on.

Lind writes:

“For Rome, there is a possible way around this wall rather than over it: status quo ante. Anglican and Protestant congregations and jurisdictions joining in full communion with Rome would not be required to accept as doctrine anything postdating their split from Rome. The Catholic Church would lead a second Counter-Reformation by backing away from some of the first.

Before the Council of Trent (1545-63), which begat the Counter-Reformation, Rome’s hand rested lightly on national churches. For example, we think of the Roman Catholic Church as having a single rite, after Trent the Tridentine Rite and following Vatican II the sad and dispiriting Novus Ordo. Before Trent, Rome allowed a vast variety of rites, as she would again. England alone had three major rites and a host of minor ones in a country of 4 million people. Rome saw no problem as long as the rites for communion services followed what Dom Gregory Dix called “the shape of the liturgy.” Anglicans might again chant in the litany, “From ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord deliver us.”

Pre-Trent, the same decentralization reigned in other matters as well. Kings generally had a good deal of say in who became a bishop. The Church might “volunteer” to pay some form of tax to a needy monarch. (After all, Church lands might make up a third of his kingdom.) When, occasionally, a Pope would overreach, king and bishops would come together to oppose him.

If Rome’s ambitions for a reunited Western Church go beyond Anglicans, and the Vatican is willing to bend beyond what the Apostolic Constitution currently offers, it may be time for Vatican III. The goal of such a council would be twofold: to sweep away obstacles to Christian unity stemming from the Council of Trent and Vatican I and reverse the disastrous consequences of Vatican II, including the vandalization of the liturgy and abandonment of practices (such as fish on Friday) that buttressed Roman Catholic identity among laymen. Ultramontane doctrinal innovations would all have to be on the table; they might remain for Roman Catholics but would not be required of others seeking full communion with Rome.”

Can Rome go this far and remain Rome?  You bet they can.  Organic development and growth is at the heart of the Roman experience.  What can be more organic than to re-interpret the Counsel of Trent and subsequent councils in a way that offers a true hope of catholicity?

Pope Benedict XVI, it is time to be courageous and to save Christendom!


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I should’ve included two other excellent Catholic scholars from Hillsdale–Stephen Smith and Nathan Schlueter.

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Ralph McInerny died this past weekend.

Death is, of course, as much a part of life as living is.  No one escapes it.  And, yet, we never get entirely used to or comfortable with it.  At least, I don’t.  Memories of the loss of a daughter and grandfather still haunt me.  And, yet, I love to walk through the cemetery across the road from my house—a stunning 19th century cemetery full of mystery and hope and beauty.  Live lived fully, lives barely lived, complex stories each.

When I saw this past Saturday on Carl Olson’s Ignatius Insight Scoop blog that Ralph McInerny had passed away, I smiled.  I ran to the top of the stairs, yelled down to my wife that he had died, and then I smiled again.

I will fully admit, this is not my usual first reaction to hearing about a death.  But, McInerny seems a special case.  After reading Carl’s posting, my first image—even before hollering down to my wife–was that of McInerny meeting his own wife, Jacques Maritain, Aquinas, and Dante beyond the Gates.  I have a feeling the several of them have a lot of catching up to do; and I’m equally sure that the conversation will continue. . . eternally.

Though I consider one of McInerny’s sons, Dan, a good friend, I only had the privilege of meeting the father once.  Sponsored by our college Catholic Society, Ralph McInerney came to Hillsdale shortly after I arrived here (1999) and gave an excellent talk to a group of Catholic faculty.  I found him piercingly intelligent and equally kind.  His visit has stayed with me through the past decade.

Just writing this quasi-obituary, the smile returns.  What more could a Christian give to the world than what McInerny gave, short of martyrdom?

Surely, if there is justice, history will remember McInerny as one of the wittiest Christian thinkers and apologists of his age.  A pillar of all that is good at the University of Notre Dame—indeed, perhaps one of the three men (along with Fathers Bill Miscamble and Marvin O’Connell) who has served as Notre Dame’s conscience for years—a proper critic of the excesses of the culture surrounding Vatican II, a “Peeping Thomas” as he called himself, and a prose writer of considerable grace and imagination, McInerny offered himself as a citizen of the City of God to this City of Man during the entirety of his lifetime.

Now residing in Michigan, my wife (a Texan) and I (a Kansan) frequently and insanely pack five children into our Honda Odyssey (named “Aeneas” just to spite the Greeks) and venture to the middle and southern parts of the country to visit our respective extended families.  While the kids spill stuff (which will remain for this quasi-obituary undefined) on the seats and the floor of the van, push one another, and watch the landscape fly by, my wife reads McInerny novels to me.  Being more than a bit of an obsessive-compulsive, Germanic control-type of person, I drive.  I also listen.  McInerny’s works have been a central part of our family travels since our marriage.  I know his protagonists well—Roger Knight, Father Dowling, and Vincent Traeger.  They almost seem like family.

But, it’s not just McInerney’s mysteries.  I will never forget one drive when Dedra (my wife) read a particular passage from his 1991 novel, The Search Committee.  The passage involved a committee discussion about which minority/”outgroup” person would be most qualified to serve as a university chancellor.   The answer, stated with complete irreverence, was so funny, that at least ten mile markers flew by before we could stop laughing.  I’ll leave the answer for your own reading pleasure.

And, I’ll never forget the sobering and emotional (to the point of being gut wrenching) moments in Professor McInerny’s Connelly: A Life, the story of a “Spirit of Vatican II” priest re-evaluating his life and its meaning.

For years, McInerny served as the Michael P. Grace Professor of Medieval Studies at Notre Dame.  A proper and just title, indeed.  A professor, a writer, a wit, a father, a husband, a publisher, an editor. . . .

So, Professor McInerny, I continue to smile.  You give me great hope in the power of a Christian, a professor, a thinker, and an author to temper, to poke fun of, and even—through the gratuitous gifts of grace—to leaven this City of Man.

Ralph (if I may), enjoy the reunions and the conversations far beyond this world.  I hope to join you some day.

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Have you seen this bru-ha-haa?  Here

Why is Palin consistently so quick  endorse and enforce the pseudo-morality of political correctness?

It scares me that Evangelicals are as likely to use the tools of political correctness as liberals.  I think it betrays common presuppositions based on a common cultural heritage.  Save us from the righteousness of the politically correct.

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