Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Do

So I heard a piece on NPR today about Obama and McCain having differing opinions on the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy of the U.S. Military regarding persons with same-sex attraction (yclept "gays"). In short, Obama thinks it should be removed as a policy, because it has led to some number of good soldiers being dismissed from the armed forces. McCain supports continuing the policy, and -- curiously enough -- cites this as a "gay-friendly" policy. (Apparently, he's referring to the "Don't Ask" part of it.)

I think it's a terrible policy and should be removed, but not for the reasons that Obama presents. I'm opposed to the policy because it posits and ontological character to an epistemological phenomenon. In short, it fails to distinguish between orientation and action. The military has apparently bought into the strange idea -- brought about by a combination of liberal identity politics and the enduring influence of John Calvin in the American cultural landscape -- that "gayness" is an intrinsic part of a person, similar to race, rather than an extrinsic manifestation of an internal disorder.

By way of analogy -- there are certainly a number of U.S. servicemen who suffer from a disordered affection for alcohol. However, alcoholism is not per se grounds for being removed from the military. Chronic drunkenness, however, is reasonable grounds for corrective, remediative, and punitive actions by the military.

Similarly, the Uniform Code of Military Justice already has well-established mechanisms for addressing the negative impact to good order and discipline that arise from extra-marital sexual activity among the troops. It's very good at identifying the types of sexual relationships which mar readiness and morale. There is no reason that this code should be applied differently or exceptionally to those who suffer from same-sex attraction. Adultery and fornication are often contrary to good order in a military organization, and should be addressed uniformly within the military.

The problem isn't whether a person self-identifies as "gay" or not. The problem in the military is behavior that disrupts readiness and order. It is behavior that should be addressed.

I hope clear heads prevail in this arena.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More on Latin, and good Liturgy

Fr. Z. was kind enough to review and comment on my previous post about attending an ordinary form mass in Latin Ad Orientem. I'm truly grateful to him and to the many people who posted. They have given me much food for thought. I especially appreciate that most of the posters, and certainly those kind enough to comment on this blog, seemed to truly have my best interests at heart. Thank you.

A few of the posters made assumptions about me for which they really didn't have any evidence. Without addressing these point by point, I'll just say that your assumptions probably reveal more about yourself than they do about me.

One of the posters said
"Could someone explain why one would want a NO in latin Ad Orientem rather than a straight forward Tridentine Mass in dialogue form. In what way is the fomer superior to the latter and if not superior why bother with it when its predecessor is perfectly good (infact perfect and good)."

To this I can only answer that it is not strange for someone to want what the council fathers said we should have. I think the idea that the Tridentine liturgy as it was celebrated between 1920 and 1963 is "perfect" is an idea that needs some serious critical examination. The historical documents I've read seem to indicate otherwise.

Now, some insights I've gained in reading the responses:

1. Indeed, silence is golden.
I think the simultaneously rushed and bored approach of the priest at the Mass I attended contributed to my dislike of the experience. The ordinary form contains many points when reverent silence is indicated. That these are seldom observed is a tragic consequence of the realities of large suburban parish life that so many of us experience. We have to get the cars out of the parking lot from one Mass in order to get to the next.

2. Gregorian Chant is a big part of what I missed
No, I didn't think of it at the time, but indeed I would have appreciated much more Gregorian chant in this Mass. I don't mind singing in Latin. The time it takes to sing the notes tends to be enough for me to figure out what it is I am saying. (I know French and Esperanto, so both the Romance vocabulary and the modality of the language are familiar to me.) It's the rapid stream of recited Latin that has no appeal to me. That's what I had trouble with.

3. The inconsistency was part of the problem
The fact that there was no rhyme or reason to which prayers were in Latin, and which in English was a part of the distraction for me. One person asked me if I'd ever attended a Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. Indeed, I have, and I remember it with awe. I visited a Ukranian Catholic Church back in 1981, and I've never forgotten that liturgy. The consistency -- entirely in one language (I assume Ukranian) -- did not generate the distraction I felt by the random switching between languages. I think I'd like all the propers and ordinary (I mistakenly said "commons") to be in Latin. Just give me the readings and homily in English, and I'd probably be happier.

I'm a little puzzled by those who do not want to have their mind engaged at all during Mass with what is occurring at the Mass. What happened to full, conscious, active participation? I acknowledge the meditative trance that one enters into during a rosary, but that's a private act of worship, not a communal celebration of the great mystery.

I was hoping to attend an extraordinary form Mass tonight, but life intervened and it will have to wait until next week. I think part of why I'm not anticipating great enjoyment of it is that the canon is silent. Like I said, however, I'm willing to give it a try and see. I was surprised by the ordinary form Mass I attended, maybe I'll be surprised in a different way this time.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Latin -- I just didn't get it

Okay, so based on the descriptions I'd read on various Catholic blogs, and studying the theology of the liturgy, I'd reached the conclusion that the best Mass for me to attend would be an ordinary form (yclept "Novus Ordo") Mass, in Latin, with the priest facing with the people ("ad orientem").

A little research revealed that there was such a Mass on Sundays within about 1/2 hour from my home. So, on a recent Sunday I attended. I didn't bring the wife and kids, since I didn't think a 4-year-old would tolerate it very well, and my wife didn't seem to have any interest.

First thing to note -- despite the summer weather, everyone was dressed modestly. This is nice, but not really different from my home parish, which holds ordinary form Masses in English on Sundays. There were noticeably more mantillas than I'm used to, but this wasn't a surprise.

The priest entered, and I noted he was wearing one of those "fiddleback" chasubles. I realize this is a matter of aesthetics, but the fiddleback looks to me like a short scapular. This has two effects: implying that the priest is a religious, even when diocesan; also, since it's short, it looks like he's heading out to work in the fields wearing a tapestry, rather than preparing to celebrate liturgy.

Enough fashion. This particular Mass was most disappointing because of the mannerisms of the priest. This priest delivered everything, whether Greek, Latin, or English, in a kind of bored sing-song that seemed to imply nothing other than "all right, let's get this over with." I don't know anything about this priest, but he's not the only reverend who could really use a quick tour with Toastmasters.

There didn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to which prayers were in Latin, and which were in English. Okay, I understand why you say the propers in English, since no-one in the congregation (even this priest, I suspect) knows enough Latin to do an on-the-fly translation like Fr. Z. The strange thing to me was that the commons were either in Latin or English without any discernible pattern. The paternoster in Latin makes sense, but then the "Deliver us" in English. Isn't that part of the same prayer? The congregation seemed puzzled how to answer. "For the Kingdom..." came out in English.

Personally, I'd prefer that the creed be left in the vernacular, since I think it's important for people to be reminded in their own language what it is they are professing, but I acknowledge arguments for putting it in Latin.

In fact, after attending this Mass, I'm kind of inclined to give up on Mass in Latin any time in the future. I just don't get the appeal. I'd rather know what it is I am saying, and what is being said. It engages my mind much more in the moment. I don't begrudge anyone their Latin Masses, but I think I'll take a pass.

Let me put in a plug for the altar boys. These guys have been very well taught. The thurifer especially knew his stuff, and did a great job with the incense. I'd say the team of 6 altar boys was probably the most well-rehearsed I'd seen in a long time.

So, here's one thing I really liked. Ad Orientem. Once you've seen this, you'll never want to go back to "versus populum." So much of the Eucharistic prayer, and the actions of the priest, just make so much more sense when the priest is offering up the Eucharist to the Lord, rather than to the congregation. (I'm exaggerating to make a point.) It's clear when the priest turns to the people and invites them to participate, that this is exactly what he is doing. Also, the elevation of the species turns into a great high-point of the Mass (especially with that incense!) rather than just a momentary gesture.

I hope that Ad Orientem takes off throughout Christendom. That's really the way to go to Mass. Latin -- take it or leave it. I'll leave it, thanks.

I hear there is an extraordinary form Mass about 20 minutes away on Wednesday mornings. I'll see if I can get to it some time soon. Based on this experience, I'm not anticipating liking it much, but I'm willing to give it a try.

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