OWARD THE END of his life, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen said that “anything he had ever said of significance was taken from either Knox or Chesterton.” In one of his writings—I forget which—GILBERT KEITH CHESTERTON (d. 1936) said something to the effect of: “People think orthodoxy is boring, but nothing is more exciting.” I believe Chesterton was talking about how heresies have always sprung up, going all the way back to the beginning of the Church. Some heresies took excesses one way, whereas others went the other way. Consider Jansenism, Arianism, Monophysitism, Nestorianism, the controversy of Baptism with Saint Cyprian, etc. An expert in theology could undoubtably add tons more to that list!
Keeping Balance • In our own time, two “sides” seem to have emerged. One acts as if the Church began in the 1960s, saying everything that came before Vatican II is garbage and can be ignored. That side tends to embrace immorality, saying there’s no such thing as “sinful” behavior (except racism, which they consider to be the unforgivable sin). The other side pretends the “real” Church basically stopped in 1945. They have a warped view of what it means to be a Christian, and spend most of their time watching cable news, making videos of themselves, begging for money online, and hysterically arguing over “hot takes” on FACEBOOK or TWITTER. When it comes to pre-conciliar liturgical praxis, they often make erroneous statements. However, you must never correct them, because they acknowledge no authority (aside from themselves). It seems to me that authentic Catholicism is something of a via media between both sides. In a moment, I’ll say something about “progressive” Catholics and also “nasty” traditionalists—and I will do so in the context of death.
But first, since we’re still in the month of November, during which we remember in a special way those who have died, below are four hymns suitable for Catholic funerals.
A paraphrase of Psalm 22, sung by my volunteer choir (females only):
An English paraphrase of Psalm 129 (“De profúndis clamávi ad Te Dómine”) which includes the famous verse: If thou, O Lord, wilt mark iniquities: Lord, who shall stand it? The melody is BRETON:
A hymn by CARDINAL NEWMAN, the great English theologian:
The following uses the same text given above (De profúndis), but takes advantage of how the Brébeuf Catholic Hymnal often provides “text only” settings, allowing flexibility (in terms of using numerous melodies for that wonderful text). We chose a tune called “DAVOST”—and this PDF file shows how it was presented to the singers, allowing them to pick up a tune they’d never heard before in a matter of seconds. The harmonies come from the Brébeuf Hymnal.
ANY HAVE pointed out that TRADITIONIS CUSTODES seems to have been written with great haste. It contains numerous inscrutable statements and—sorry to be blunt!—embarrassing typos.1 I’m not going to broach that subject, because it would take too long. However, let me just point out that nobody has been able to explain what it means to declare the MISSALE RECENS as “sole expression” of the Roman Rite. Indeed, I know of at least two instances in which Pope Francis explicitly contradicted that in writing. Moreover, subsequent documents from the Vatican still explicitly refer to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Nor is it easy to understand why so many flagrant liturgical abuses are met with silence from the current Vatican bureaucracy. The following example comes from a few days ago:
“Nasty” Traditionalists • At the same time, it can’t be denied that a certain cadre of so-called ultra-traditionalists do tremendous harm. This cadre of “nasty” traditionalists are united by their dishonesty, ignorance, and (ultimately) hatred for Christ. Maybe someday I’ll write an entire article about that cadre—but anyone who’s surfed the Internet over the last decade already knows what I’m talking about. On the one hand, my heart breaks when I see prominent leaders of the Catholic Church embrace (or “turn a blind eye to”) immorality and heresy. On the other hand, some of the “nasty” traditionalists are so brazenly evil, filled with hatred, and shamelessly uninformed that it’s hard to recognize them as human beings! Obviously, TRADITIONIS CUSTODES is no answer to the situation. Were it a valid answer, the Missale Recens would also have to be suppressed, because terrible people also attend the Ordinary Form. Nonetheless, I believe there will come a time when the “traditional” orders will have no choice but to condemn that cadre by name. The current policy (“pretend they don’t exist”) is not working.
Father Valentine Young, OFM • On 17 January 2020, a truly great priest entered eternity. His name was Father Valentine Young, and he was our pastor. He was eminently aware of the crisis in the Church and suffered much at the hands of wicked superiors. Yet, Father Valentine never once spoke about evil Catholic leaders from the pulpit. Then again, if something needed to be handled—in terms of parishioners who were involved in gossip, lies, or spreading falsehoods—Father Valentine took care of business without hesitation and without fear. He was not just a holy priest: he was a real man. One thing that irritated him (slightly) was hearing false statements about the sacred liturgy “before Vatican II.” Remember, Father Valentine entered the seminary in 1943. With a smile, he sometimes reminded folks: “I’m pre-Vatican II.” Each night, because of all that he did for me, my family prays for his soul. And yet, in my heart I believe he’s already in Heaven. I’m reminded of Father Paul Ragueneau (d. 1680), who—after the unspeakably brutal martyrdom of Father John Brébeuf and Father Gabriel Lalemant by the Iroquois—said:
“Not one of us could force himself to pray to God for them, as if they had any need of prayer.”
Father Valentine had a certain peace about him. I remember him telling me with pride that he’d finished putting up his Christmas lights. I exclaimed: “But Father Valentine, it’s still Advent!” He looked at me and said: “Well, I believe in taking advantage of nice weather.”
What Would He Say? • Needless to say, I cannot speak for Father Valentine. But if he were alive today and witnessed some of the apostasy by church leaders, I think he’d remind us that our Lord Himself—the SECOND PERSON OF THE DIVINE TRINITY—chose Judas as one of his apostles. Moreover, it was the religious leaders (!!!) who unjustly had Jesus Christ crucified. If he were alive today, I think Father Valentine (being informed of scandals by church leaders) would probably say: “Remember your own death, which will arrive before you know it. Do not allow others to become an occasion of sin for you. Leave the rest to God.”
Article Summary • In Disney’s Aladdin (1992), Robin Williams (the Genie) says: “Rule number three: I can’t bring people back from the dead. It’s not a pretty picture. I don’t like doing it!” At times, I’ve written articles about Roman Catholic scandals. One was about the David Haas situation, another was about a cardinal who (in an attack on the Extraordinary Form) made a blasphemous statement, and a third was about an “ultra-traditionalist” who (online) pretended to be the holiest person alive, but I knew secret information about him that proved he was a disgusting fraud. But I never published any of those articles. The reason? I didn’t like the way writing those articles made me feel. I felt dirty afterwards—even though I had nothing to do with the sinful behavior. As the Genie said: “It’s not a pretty picture. I don’t like doing it!” More importantly, I realized that my articles were not going to change anyone’s mind. Therefore, somebody else will have to come along and deal with those kind of scandals. I don’t have the stomach for it. Looking back, I wonder if that’s why Father Valentine Young never spoke about church scandals from the pulpit.
1 I believe that TRADITIONIS CUSTODES will eventually be rescinded, in the same way other papal documents have been rescinded throughout history.