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CMAA Chant Pilgrimage

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Catholic Light co-founder John Schultz and two of his work colleagues undertook a fine project recently, to record video of the closing Mass at the Church Music Association's fall Chant Pilgrimage at the National Shrine in Washington.

Here are the segments he has published so far:

Organ Prelude and Introit ("Salve sancta Parens"):

Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Mass IX): Kyrie and Gloria:

Ed Peters has put together another response to the Legionaries of Christ / Regnum Christi (LC/RC) crisis, which is well worth reading. You can check it out here. Since I'm likely to be asked for a response, here's a line-by-line:

I think that Fr. Alvaro Corcuera's apparent claim that he knows nothing about Maciel's behavior, except that Maciel sired a daughter, is utterly unbelievable. I have nothing else to say about this kind of stone-walling. I will simply re-endorse Dr. Germain Grisez's and Mr. George Weigel's proposals for direct intervention by the Holy See.

Out of Christian charity I will assume Fr. Alvaro is telling the truth. The Holy See should intervene anyway. Directly.

The situation is so muddled that I cannot see how the LC/RC can fix it without outside help and expertise. Of course I'm just one canonist out of thousands in the Church. But given how the LC/RC have maintained Fr. Maciel's innocence for years, the severity of the allegations against him - both proven and unproven, and other structural problems within the movement, how the initial response has been bungled, it will be difficult for the LC/RC to regain the trust of orthodox Catholics without assurances that Rome has performed a thorough housecleaning of the movement.

Apologists for the LC/RC are already stating that Fr. Alvaro and the LC/RC are following Rome's instructions. And Rome has stated it has no immediate plans to step in, but would do so if requested by the Legion. So it might be best is the Legion simply go through the official step of asking Rome to step in directly.

Moving on Peters's rebuttal of the "reform-from-within" assertion and the "carry-on-the-charism" assertion:

Assertion 1. Because the Legion and Regnum Christi have within their ranks many obviously good and faithful Catholics, they should be allowed to try a reform from within. Response: the presence of good and faithful Catholics within an organization, particularly when the organization (in terms of Church history, if nothing else) is so young, says almost nothing about whether the organization itself is sound and/or salvageable.

Here is where I think Peters needs to make a distinction. Those making the "reform from within" suggestion (like myself) are not a unified camp. Some maintain the LC/RC should be permitted to reform from within, without any direct outside intervention. Very unlikely to work, as proven by the fact Fr. Maciel got away with his misdeeds for so long. And even if it were possible, there's still the problem of restoring the RC/LC's credibility.

Like Peters, I believe the LC/RC's current structure is deeply flawed, and have for some time, according to criteria developed with Fr. Frank Morrisey - one of the Church's foremost canonical experts on religious law and structures of institutes of consecrated life - and cult expert Michael Langone. You can read a summary of the criteria here. (Please note: I am not claiming that all of these criteria apply to the LC/RC, but those that do need to be rooted out if the LC/RC is to reform.)

Having said that, given that the majority of LC/RC members are orthodox Catholics faithful to Rome, I believe a "reform from within" is possible if the Holy See intervenes directly and appoints someone credible from outside the LC/RC to do a thorough investigation of LC/RC practices, and oversee their reform. It needs to be someone known for prayer and orthodoxy, experienced in religious life, and highly respected within the Church. For example, Cardinal Francis George from Chicago or Archbishop Seán O'Malley from Boston. Of course this assumes LC/RC members cooperate - not only in letter, but in spirit - with the reform.

Such a reform must begin with a sincere apology to Fr. Maciel's victims, followed by restitution. Also, no more excuses suggesting Fr. Maciel's innocence, or trying to dampen the severity of his sins. Of course the structural weaknesses that allowed Fr. Maciel to get away with his double-life for so long must also be fixed. Good faith only gets one so far. Peters identifies the question many canonists are asking, namely whether there are structural problems to the Legion, expressing them as only he can, when he states in response to the second assertion:

There is, I think, at least as much reason to wonder whether Maciel set up an institute in order to assure himself of ample access to sexual targets and unaccountable funds, or whether he suffered from some warped psycho-emotional condition that enabled him to compartmentalize pious devotional practices and sexual predation for decades on end...

Here is where I take a somewhat harder line than Peters. I don't wonder. In fact, I'm pretty sure Fr. Maciel set up the LC/RC to, as I put it in the following interview, acquire, maintain and protect his access to victims.

I won't comment on funds, except to say well-placed sources within and outside the LC/RC told me that Fr. Maciel was frequently given thousands of dollars in cash without any questions being asked. I haven't looked into the issue deeply enough to give it much thought; it's entirely possible the financial irregularities came after, as a by-product of the sexual irregularities. Of course, none of the above excludes the possibility Fr. Maciel also had a serious psychological condition.

But I've skipped ahead a bit. Here's how Peters begins his response to the second assertion:

Assertion 2. Maciel's canonical crime spree was a grave personal failing, but it does not negate the L/RC 'charism', and they should be allowed to continue their work. Response: This argument misses the key question, namely, whether in fact Maciel ever bequeathed an authentic charism to the L/RC...

This, then, is what separates our positions at the moment. If one believes the LC/RC lack a true charism, then Peters is right in suggesting Rome may have to shut down the movement completely and reconstitute it. (Without a true charism, there is nothing to reform.)

On the other hand, if one believes the LC/RC possess a true charism from Christ, but that it has become seriously clouded by Fr. Maciel's sexual vice, then it may still be possible to rescue the charism. Of course it will still require delicate surgery on Rome's part. It's possible the movement is so far gone that the necessary reform is no longer possible. The LC/RC will have to show they are capable of true reform.

Peters then says (skipping over the part I had quoted earlier, out-of-sequence):

I do not know whether the L/RC can (following a complete leadership replacement!) reform itself from within, although I am almost certain that they cannot;

A complete leadership change may be the only thing that can save the LC/RC at this point. Certainly this is how I feel, humanly speaking, although the Holy Spirit could intervene in a way that canonists haven't imagined. But, assuming most of the current leadership was honestly in dark about Fr. Maciel's double-life, this speaks to a weakness in LC/RC formation that so many clergy suspected so little for so long. This is not to say they were bad people or terrible priests - only that they appear to lack a certain skill-set needed to exercise prudent governance over a large religious institute.

This is not uncommon among young institutes of consecrated life where one is dealing with leadership known for its holiness (let alone living a double-life). I've experienced this at least twice in my career as a canon lawyer. A young institute and its young superior come up with some grandiose ideas, or overlook the obvious. An older priest, with several years of priestly experience before joining the institute, jumps in points out what's being overlooked, or otherwise brings some common sense to the discussion. Older priests can help guide a young superior of a young institute through sensitive pastoral issues, temper and focus the zeal of younger newly-ordained priests, and put bishops as ease knowing there is someone with experience keeping an eye on the new institute.

The problem with the current LC/RC superiors is that none of them kept an eye on Fr. Maciel. This is not surprising. Abusers cannot bear close scrutiny, which would threaten their access to victims. Fr. Maciel reportedly handpicked his superiors. Not surprisingly, he often named young priests who lacked practical pastoral experience. Which is why most Catholics would feel more confident about a reform of the LC/RC if Rome stepped in directly.

and I do not know whether Maciel developed an authentic charism for clerical, religious, and lay life, but I have serious doubts that he did.

And now the question of charism. The reason orthodox Catholics have struggled so deeply with the crisis, in fact the reason there are such strong feelings of anger and betrayal, is that the LC/RC's good works have been visible to us for so long. But looking back in retrospect, so too have the institutional signs of Fr. Maciel's double-life. How does one reconcile such a stark contrast?

Normally, an institute's charism is tied to its founder and its good works. However, the two don't match in this case. Some argue that the LC/RC's founding charism was fraudulent from the start. Others argue that God used Fr. Maciel as His imperfect human instrument. In reflecting upon this dilemma, attempting to reconcile these questions in my own mind, I stumbled across the biography of Saint Rafael Guízar Valencia.

Saint Rafael was Fr. Maciel's uncle and the bishop who oversaw most of Fr. Maciel's seminary formation prior to dismissing his nephew from the seminary. Saint Rafael exemplified many of the Christian virtues LC/RC attempt to emulate as members of their movement. In fact, his life story reads like a blueprint for the LC/RC's good works, and LC/RC members in past have recognized his influence in the founding of their movement.

Perhaps - and this is highly speculative on my part - Saint Rafael is the true spiritual founder of the LC/RC movement, and the instrument used by God to transmit its charism. It's something for LC/RC members to pray about.

Dom Calvet's funeral held today

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Today is the funeral of Dom Gerard Calvet, founder of the post-conciliar traditional Benedictine movement. He was a good man, and it was because of his loyalty to the Church and the traditional liturgy that traditional Catholics now feel at home in the Church. I hope the Church will one day find him worthy of canonization.

That being said, it was an honour to write his obituary for LifeSite News and The Washington Times. I've also been invited to write his obituary for The Wanderer and Challenge Magazine:

- Renowned French Pro-Life Abbott Dies at Age 80

- Calvet, 80, mourned in France

May Father Abbot's soul, and the soul of all the faithfully departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Summer events


I'm starting to think about what events to attend during summer vacation. Of course, one is easy: the CMAA colloquium in Chicago June 16-22.

Is anything else good going on across the country? Conferences? Courses? Retreats? I'll be driving, so I can connect the dots pretty flexibly. Add your recommendations in the comments!

What were they thinking?!?

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The CMAA has scheduled its 2008 colloquium (June 16-22, 2008) in conflict with the International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City (June 15-22, 2008)!

Quelle folie!

Some words pour forth automatically whenever a loss of life occurs, especially when it is unexpected. "I'm so sorry," you tell a colleague whose loved one has just died. "Let me know if there is anything I can do to help." During those times, you simply reach for the words closest to your mind; anything more complicated would seem insincere or calculated. Heartfelt, lengthy expressions of condolence are for later occasions, when the grieving person can absorb them.

But because these words spring readily to mind, they reveal some disturbing truths about how we view plainly evil deeds -- that is, willfully malicious acts committed against innocent people. These words have been ubiquitous in the last two days. The first word is "tragedy," which is an exceptionally polite term. A tornado destroying a house and killing an entire family is a tragedy, an event beyond human agency. Shooting strangers in their heads is mass murder.

The second word is "senseless," as in "senseless violence," "senseless acts," etc. By this, people cannot mean "unconscious," as if the Virginia Tech murderer was sleepwalking. And they cannot possibly mean "foolish" or "stupid," as if the murderer made a careless series of errors. They must be saying that it is meaningless, the third definition of "senseless." That cannot possibly be true, and if we believe that these murders had no meaning, we will maintain the conditions that produce these "tragedies."

Right after the "tragic events" of September 11, 2001, an artist — possibly a composer or conductor — commented that the whole thing was a spectacularly effective work of performance art. He was roundly lambasted for his insensitivity, and he publicly apologized for insensitivity. (I'll be grateful if anyone can identify this man, because my googling skills are failing me.)

But the guy shouldn't have backed down, because he was onto something. The September 11 hijackers were not collectively insane, and destroying lives and property were the means to an end: they were trying to convey a meaning, or rather a densely packed series of meanings. They hated America and decadent West for its moral decadence; they hated capitalism for undermining religious purity in Muslim countries; they wished to show the American population how vulnerable it was to the holy warriors of Islam.

We can debate whether the hijackers meant all of those things, and how many other things they meant. But we cannot possibly call their actions "senseless," as they were invested with deeply symbolic meaning. For one thing, al Qaeda's leadership chose the World Trade Center as a target because it stood for America's leading role in the global economy. Knocking down the buildings and murdering thousands of workers didn't stop the U.S. from trading with the rest of the world, and the Islamofascists knew it wouldn't. What they wanted to do was announce themselves, to force America to listen to their concerns, and show that they were willing to commit seriously "transgressive" acts to shock their audience into reacting. Just like performance artists.

Likewise, the Virginia Tech murderer, Seung-Hui Cho, intended to make some kind of statement. If the initial reports are correct, he murdered a freshman girl out of unrequited love. Like most crimes of passion, he probably saw this as vengence, the righting of an injustice, and it had no larger meaning. (I hope it goes without saying that I do not agree with his reasoning.) But how can one explain his subsequent murder of 30 students whom he probably never knew, except as self-expression run amok? Cho wrote an explanatory note about his killing spree, and we will know what it says in the coming days or weeks. The note might not be coherent or consistent, but it will almost certainly say that he was making a point about...something.

In that, the murders themselves and the national "outpouring of grief" are two sides of the same coin. I don't mean the families of the victims, nor Virginia Tech students and alumni, nor Blacksburg residents, nor anyone else directly affected. I mean people who see a horrifying news event presented through the mass media, and feel the compulsion to express themselves through MySpace and other social networking sites, as well as other media. Our cultural ethos says that every emotion, no matter how synthetic or contrary to reality, can (and probably should) be broadcast to the world. Respectful silence in the face of devastating loss is no longer acceptable. Now the focus must be shifted from the victims' families and loved ones — the ones who truly do need comfort and support — to those who merely observe as voyeurs.

Mass murders cannot be entirely attributed to a culture of narcissistic self-expression, as there are other contributing factors, and each killing spree is unique. But the culture plays a catalytic role, when it should be encouraging self-correction and self-restraint. Changing the culture is the only way to diminish if not eliminate these kinds of mass murders, but in a world with YouTube and blogs, self control will be a tough sell.

Pictures from an ordination

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Congratulations to seminarian Bryan Jerabek (Mount St. Mary's), who was ordained a deacon on Saturday at Immaculate Conception Church in Portsmouth, NH. He was born in New Hampshire, but has resided more recently in the diocese of Birmingham, AL, to which he now belongs; Bp. David Foley kindly agreed to celebrate the ordination up north where much of Bryan's large family lives. More photos from the Mass and reception are on-line.

An event for our Boston-area readers:

Speaker: Thomas Howard, formerly professor of English at Gordon College and St. John Seminary
Topic: "If Your Mind Wanders at Mass"
Time: Sunday, November 19 at 3 p.m.
Place: St. Mary Star of the Sea School Hall, 13 Chapman St., Beverly, MA

Men's Conference in Boston


The 2006 Boston Catholic Men's conference will be on March 4, and will feature Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa (preacher to the papal household), evangelist Fr. John Corapi, Scott Hahn (convert and theology professor at Steubenville), musician Sean Forrest and Archbishop Sean O'Malley. Tickets are available at $25 until 12/31, a little more after that.

WYD webcams

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Getting a look at the scene of the closing events at the Marienfeld, a former fairground about 11 miles east of Cologne at Rhein-Erft-Kreis. Expected congregation: 800,000.

Two upcoming events

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(1) This sounds promising:

Wednesday of Holy Week, March 23:

7:30 PM Tenebrae Service (Gregorian Chant) St. John's Catholic Church 6420 Linway Terrace, Mclean, Virginia 22101

(2) In April, there will be a Theology of the Body conference in Chantilly, VA. I attended this last year in Gettysburg, and found it worthwhile.

Disclosed Location

Tomorrow, I start my graduate seminar in Program Management, Quantitative Methods and Making My Brain Hurt. I will likely be relying on my compadres here at Catholic A'ight to fill in for me while I do Excel functions, statistics, etc.

Sad thing is, I wouldn't know a two-tailed variance test if it was on the endangered species list...

RC - I will resist the temptation to call for assistance.

I (shall) have run the race...

Springfield, MA, vocations director Fr. Thomas Pacholec is raising money for clergy abuse victims by running in the Boston Marathon April 19.

Coming to Brooklyn on Friday

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As some of you know, I will be in Brooklyn this weekend for a meeting of the Alhambra's international executive. Friday night is free, so a group of us from the apologetics and St. Blog community are hoping to get together. (We did something similar in Chicago a few weeks, and had a great time!)

Below is the hotel information where I will be staying. Right now, we're hoping to get together sometime between 6:30 and 7:00 pm. I should be around if you want to come earlier (either in my room, or wearing one of my conservative t-shirts in the hotel lobby or pub) but if you need to come later, please let me know in advance if possible -- either by email before Thursday, or by leaving a message for me at the hotel on Friday.

Look forward to seeing you all...

> Marriott Hotel at the Brooklyn Bridge
> 333 Adams St
> Brooklyn NY
> Hotel # (718)246-7000
> Toll Free (888) 436-3759

How come nobody blames the laity?


Reflecting on the sex scandal comments, I'd like to propose a different way of thinking about problems within the Church. Before we, the laity, start criticizing bishops and priests, shouldn't we ask what we have done to prepare the ground for a scandal? Have we supported good priests and bishops? Worked to make our parishes, schools, and institutions worthy of the name "Christian"? Striven to consecrate our culture to God, or at least to make sure it doesn't offend him?

I'm not suggesting that bishops who covered up serious sins and crimes should not be punished, either by civil or canon law, nor am I suggesting that blame should be shifted from the perpetrators. The Church doesn't operate franchises that provide holiness on demand, it provides houses of worship for sinners. The conditions within those houses are largely determined by those who inhabit them, and that means us, dear laymen. If our local house is out of order, perhaps the place to start the renovation is within our own souls.

CWN reports (subscription required) that the Pontifical Council for Health Care is conducting a conference on clinical depression today through November 15, and quotes the Council's president:

Cardinal [Javier] Lozano Barragan said that depression may result from an intense fear of death, which finds no relief in a culture that has lost spiritual moorings. The Mexican prelate said that the Vatican seminar would focus particularly on the spiritual dimensions of the problem.
That seems a strange comment to me; I hope the cardinal didn't mean it as a speculation about fear of death as a general cause of depression. I'm not a physician, but my impression is that there is ample evidence that genetic factors play a major role in this disease. Besides, I'd expect intense fear of death to be considered an effect of depression.

Any shrinks out there want to sort this out?

Update: ZENIT reports on the first day of talks.

I suppose it would fair to say that the spiritual truths the Church presents to man -- in particular, the message of hope and God's love in the Gospel -- could be considered as helping a patient's "cognitive therapy" -- correcting the overly negative and self-critical thinking habits often experienced by depressed persons.

October 1, 1979

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Twenty-four years ago today, the Pope was here.

An enterprising record company offers audio highlights of the trip.

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

John Schultz

You write, we post
unless you state otherwise.


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