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Who's defending what?

Submitted by Simon on Mon, 02/28/2011 - 2:55pm

Gene Kennedy, who seems more off his meds than on of late, objects that Bp. James Conley's encomium for the new translation "dismisses the liturgical reforms of Vatican II as occasions for 'a lot of silliness and confusion.'" Not really. What his excellency said was that "[t]he Second Vatican Council gave us a great gift with the Novus Ordo," but that we can nevertheless "also recognize that the way in which the reform of the Mass was carried out after [the Council] … has occasioned a lot of silliness and confusion." Strawmen tend to self-immolate when the real text is easily available online.

Still, you see the irony in all this, don't you? Kennedy faults Conley for dismissing Vatican II (although Conley did no such thing, and such criticisms are usually vaporous), yet Conley is just a foil; the real object of Kennedy's ire is the new translation itself, which he continues to fault for all manner of sins. The new translation, however, is merely a more accurate translation of the novus ordo—which is, from their perspective, "the Mass of Vatican II." So the critics are, in fact, objecting to the very liturgy of which they claim to be defenders!

Thus, for example, Kennedy mischaracterizes Conley as "dismiss[ing] the liturgical reforms of Vatican II as occasions for 'a lot of silliness and confusion,'" but only a few paragraphs later, he dismisses the text "et cum spiritu tuo" (which certainly predated the novus ordo yet remained intact in it) as, well, a lot of silliness and confusion. It "subdivid[es] human personality," he suggests, "by addressing 'spirit' as if it were, as one definition puts it, 'the activating principle, the will.'" Whether this is right or wrong is irrelevant; the point is that the text is the product of "the liturgical reforms of Vatican II." His preferred text isn't the council's text, or even the consilium's; it's the lame duck ICEL translation. The Consilium becomes an ersatz Council, the translation of its liturgy becomes an ersatz Consilium, the misapplication and abuse of the translation become an ersatz liturgy—and the whole thing is sent out to war under the flag of "the spirit of Vatican II," the better to dismiss any criticism as "attempts to revoke the council." The "big lie" theory is alive and well.

I could tell you all day long that those who pose as staunch defenders of the council have in fact beseiged and hijacked it, but nothing makes the point so vividly as seeing their doublespeak on such naked display. Kennedy would have you believe that he is defending the council against Conley et al, but in reality, Kennedy is defending the ICEL's liturgy against the assertion of (what they would have us believe is) the council's liturgy.

Post facto:
MP: The Scottish posture (Aug. 5, 2011)

I haven't read anything Gene

I haven't read anything Gene Kennedy has written so I don't know whether he's aware of it or not, and I haven't read any modern Christian theological writing, but I know from my study of philosophy that his interpretation of what we mean when we say 'spirit' is very much influenced by critics of the traditional Christian concept of sin. Either he has a modernist interpretation of things, or is understanding the concept through a modernist interpretation.

Early Christians had the same understanding of the spirit or soul that did Aristotle. Aristotle's argument was that the soul or spirit was the essence of a thing, its capacity to be what it is and develop into other things. In that definition, a seed already had the soul of a plant, and a fetus the soul of a person. It was a Platonic conception; the person's spirit represented who he was as an individual, not his conditional existence. If you lost your arm, you would still be the same person, since your arm didn't define you as an individual. In that sense only does the body get separated from the activating principle, when its conditional to who you are. However, its only in the sense that its conditional; its not separate from who you are as long as it is an expression of who you are; in the same way that leaves are an expression of a tree's soul at the moment a tree has them on its branches, but no longer an expression of the soul when they've fallen and are no longer part of the tree.

The purpose was to differentiate between what was ephemeral and what wasn't. And to Christians, to be in state of sin was to be attached to those things that were ephemeral instead of those things that were substantial. It was a way of misunderstanding your nature, of who you are, to care about material things that didn't matter. It was not that the flesh was separate from the spirit, but the love of flesh was opposed to the pursuit of the spirit because it was being dishonest about what was meaningful in life. And as long as you loved your flesh, you were not in unity with your spirit, since you were not pursuing the understanding of your spiritual nature.

You see this definition reiterated in 17th c philosophers like Liebniz and Descartes, and you see it again in Hegel as geist, in his book Phenomenology of Spirit.

That title is often mistranslated as Phenomenology of Mind, its a misunderstanding created by the modern point of view, influenced by empirical psychology. Modern thinkers started having a problem with the whole idea of representing an essence or unity of anything, arguing that it was impossible. For example, in Wittgenstein, who challenged the idea of essence in language. But also in psychology with Jung, who's the one applied the criticism to Christian theology. He thought the problem with Christianity was that it didn't give credit to darker natures, by which we sin, as meaningful and important to us. For Jung, sinning had a purpose to the soul and to the development of our spirit, and that if we didn't sin we couldn't be fully human. There was no such thing as not being in unity with your spirit, since everything we did was an expression of our spirit and so we were always in unity with it. So, with that, he elevated the gnosticism in alchemy above Catholic dogma. Other modern psychologists made this into a dividing line, deciding that traditional Christian philosophy defined the mind, whereas our emotions (meaning our desires) are attached to our body and are things that we have no control of. We're born with lust, greed, etc., and cannot control those desires without repressing our nature and creating neuroses. (It's this point of view, IMO, that really divides the psyche in two, because it makes the moral half of the mind in conflict with the emotional half of the mind, it gives you the impression that self-control is some invasive, damaging element in the mind rather than natural. The truth is that you can express yourself either way)

Thats where Kennedy's view comes in. He even uses the phrase suggesting its 'subdividing' a personality. At any rate there should be a whole lot of problems with that interpretation for traditional Catholics, because it does challenge Christian doctrine and try to make it more gnostic. It also accepts the modern interpretation that we have little to no self-control, personal moral values are a fiction, and asceticism is not only unrealistic, but a bad thing that somehow transforms priests into pedophiles (a really ridiculous and insulting concept). If that view is right, whats the point of religion? Isn't the point supposed to be to help us be better persons? "To aspire to be angels", is another way to say to help us be be better persons, not a way to say to help us be non-human. The point isn't to deny that we have desires, but to understand that in order to be a moral person we have to learn how to align our desires with meaning in our life. To not have our desires make us selfish and arrogant. The only point of celibacy for priests, is that in order to advise others on how to deal with their emotional struggles, you have to have some fair deal of understanding how to live with your emotions to the point that you don't have to feel controlled by them. Otherwise how can you give advice? It would be like a drunk advising someone how to get sober. Celibacy is just an outward sign of that and outward signs of mastery are necessary to establish a relationship with someone who is seeking advice.. its an issue of trust. That's the purpose of a guru or yogi or a sensai or a master in other cultures, and the purpose of a priest for Christian religion; as a teacher. Its like wanting to learn physics from someone who has mastered physics, or psychology from someone who has mastered psychology. And if a priest isn't in a position of being a teacher, why have a priest at all? Just go to a Bible study club and skip church. Or become a Baptist. Its such a simple idea that Mr. Kennedy is failing to understand.

If there's a problem with priests living up to that standard, then either there should be more stringent tests for priesthood, or Catholics should get rid of priests altogether and basically become Protestants. Or some other religion. The other choice is just meaningless posturing that doesn't even have respect for the religion in the first place. Its neurotic.

I don't know what type of debates are going on in the Catholic community, but it seems people should be aware of the concepts he's bringing into the discussion.

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