Between Breaths

Musicam novam præsento. This is a sororal love-song to Layla Grant, the bright young gem whom “Nashville” takes an ugly, sadistic joy thrashing the life out of. Like “Tuesday A.M.,” this song pushes the analog emulation as far as I can go; unlike that song, it had a remarkably straightforward gestation. Those who just want the music, click through; as always, for those who like to know what’s going on behind the curtain, let’s dig in.

Start with the obvious: Yes, I brought in a singer for this one. My vocal wasn’t cutting it, so I called up Nate Mensah who came in and did a great job. I had woken up on March 27—having discussed Layla the previous day—with the first verse in my mind, and immediately went down to the studio and cut a demo; I had the basic tracks done by day’s end, and worked on lyrics for the second verse over the next couple of days. Nate came in once I had them down. He sang a couple of coverage takes, and we worked through specific lines that I didn’t feel were nailed in the coverage or where there were questions; for example, there were some articulations that he did a little differently from my guide vocal, so I had him give me a couple of takes his way and a couple of takes my way, leaving me free to decide later which worked better. (Usually his, but not always.) A specific example would be the articulation on the last words of the chorus: In the first chorus, I kept my articulation, but in the second, his way worked better to close out the vocal. At the mix, I added a little processing—some compression (VoS’ Thrillseeker LA takes a first pass, Minimal System’s Punch, a second), and some reverb (this time I used a Lexicon 480L plate from Big Gee’s IR collection; when I’ve tried it before, it hasn’t sat right in the mix, but here it does).

I don’t usually post lyrics—I tend to agree with Michael Stipe that a lyric is meant for the ear not the eye—but I’m very happy with these words:

You’re bent by the wind until you snap.
You’re broken down and pushed around, hurt til you break,
But still go on.
I’m amazed you take it all, forcing yourself forward like the pro.
You push past loss, rejection, heartache, still you seem to undertake
T’ forge on.

Between breaths—it can seem like eternity;
Between breaths—it’s cruel, this city!
It wrings the life and the blood from your breast;
Divided but undimmed you’re trapped between breaths.

This punishment has broken lesser women.
You’re shit-upon and run-around, terrorized, abandoned and betrayed.
If there’s a silver-lining anywhere, you’ll stumble right into the cloud!
But you never quit, you always stay, there’s an innocence to the naïveté
T’ carry on

I like that it doesn’t follow any specific meter; I like that it’s “like the pro” not “a pro”; I love that image “If there’s a silver-lining anywhere, you’ll stumble right into the cloud,” which makes me giggle and cry a little at the same time, which is of course very much the pathos of the character. I’m not wild about “lesser women”; my wife and I went back and forth on that line for quite a while—she really dislikes it—but the problem is that there’s no good alternative. It works better as “men,” but poetry has to give way to canon.

This is an unusually “thin” track for me; although I carried ~30 tracks out of post into the mix, there aren’t many layers at any given time. The piano came from a Roland JV30, played live, no MIDI. I tracked it with the Kurzweil too, which felt perhaps more authentic to the “Nashville vernacular,” but I adore that 80s chorused-piano sound (too many Genesis records at an impressionable age, I fear), and when it came to the mix, I went with my gut, and I think it plays. Like “Tuesday A.M.,” the core of the sound is an acoustic guitar and a mandolin, one on the left, the other on the right. This time, the electric guitars were a couple of Telecasters (my HRT and T12) into a Fender Greta as a tube pre, and a Strat for the solo, where I added a Digitech Bad Monkey, which is a fun TubeScreamer-style overdrive, and the Softamp FM25, which I haven’t used since “Still Alive.” It’s not right for every situation, but it works nicely here. The solo itself—I could probably have taken a few more passes and really nailed the timing, there’s a couple of places where it’s blurry, but I like this one and I like it as-is.

(There’s a passage in the solo—not the one you might think—that gave me fits in tracking. Pro-tip: If it’s not coming together, stop, pull out the metronome, pull it back to the speed where you can play the passage, and work up to 120% of tempo. You can do this. You’ve got this. Just work the system: The metronome is your friend.)

Softsynths are thin on the ground. There’s a Moog emulation bubbling under the track until the second chorus, and an organ that comes in right at the end, and that’s it apart from the drums, which are MT Power Drums with only very light processing; I did separate out the kick and snare from the buss for separate processing (no reverb on the kick, an additional, gated send for the snare), and so you have those plus the stereo buss into another instance of Thrillseeker LA. I also have the Lindell 6X-500CM over the snare and the guitar lead; I really like it but was more restrained in my use of it this time around. The bass is a 5-string Washburn P-bass recorded through a Bellari tube pre with some compression from Minimal System Punch; I added the Blue Cat Chorus under the solo just to thicken it up a little, and Softube’s Saturation Knob is set so that it catches just the parts where I’m playing with a heavier touch at the end.

As always, Sonimus’ SonEQ is my go-to mix EQ, and everything is fed through their Britson console emulation (I did not end up using, but want to plug, their Burnley 1073 emulation) and Ferox into VoS’ Density III and Ferric for just a little bit of mix buss compression. My stock mastering chain has gained a new toy since “Tuesday A.M.”: Kazrog’s KClip. I used it extensively on season one of the podcast, and here I finally get to use it for its intended purpose!

I feel that the mix could be a little better—it feels a little too airy and open—and maybe I’ll revisit it at some point, but for eight days’ work, I’m pretty happy with this.

That time when checklists will save your life

Several reviews for Atul Gawande’s book The Checklist Manifesto, which has been inching toward the top of my reading stack, mention that one might as well save one’s time and just read the 2007 article by Gawande whence the book sprang, The Checklist. The medical details in this article are heebie-jeebie-giving to the extent that they aren’t full-bore triggering (you’ve been warned), but I think that they point at which he’s driving is important and merits a recommendation. I’m a fan of checklists, based on the simple self-knowledge that when I’m under pressure, the risk of forgetting something important goes up, and indeed, the only thing that I’d change about Wunderlist is that it would be nice if it were easier to build simple, invocable checklists—possible in the current version, but only with a workaround.

Milestones: Antonin Scalia, 1936-2016

Our Hero has died, at the age of 79. 

If you seek a monument, look around: Justice Scalia was one of the most important American judges since Holmes—perhaps even since Marshall. He leaves behind him a monumental legacy. To paraphrase Justice Souter’s moving eulogy for the late Justice Brennan, what no one is doing today is saying goodbye to Justice Scalia; “the law as he saw it will transcend his own time,” and any time we will heretofore consider a legal question on almost any subject of any importance, our starting place will be a statement by Justice Scalia. For centuries to come, “we will either accept the inheritance of his thinking, or we will have to face him squarely and make good on our challenge to him. And so there are no goodbyes to be said now to [the justice, for] … we shall deal with him many times again.” But our friend is gone. Our mentor and hero is gone. 

In coming weeks, perceptive encomia to his career, jurisprudence, and profound impact on the law will be written. This post will be brief and personal.

Over the last decade, I have often used “Our Hero” as a sobriquet for Justice Scalia; that it’s tongue-in-cheek doesn’t mean that it’s a joke. I find myself thinking about one of the late Alan Rickman’s less-celebrated roles, Galaxy’s Quest‘s Alexander Dane. In the movie, broadcasts of an eponymous Star Trek knock-off have been received by an alien civilization that has mistaken them for Earth’s “historical documents.” Rickman’s Dane is an actor infuriated with the trappings of playing “Doctor Lazarus,” the show’s Spock character. But the aliens took the show seriously, and  one of them, Quellek, has taken Lazarus very seriously, seeing something of great value in his philosophy, and seeking to pattern his life and studies on him.  

I never met Justice Scalia, but ten years ago last month, his debate with Justice Breyer at American University changed my life. He gave me direction, focus, and  an intellectual toolkit that has shaped my approach to every question where we confront a text. He carried forward and refined the legal process mindset—actually took the class from Sacks, if memory serves—with its emphases on neutral principles, institutional competence, positivism, and a “soft realism” about what judges do that protected Scalia and his devotees from the temptations of so-called “strict construction,” which he routinely dismissed derisively. To this, he added his distinctive contributions: An insistence on textualism and “Original semantic meaning” Originalism. Ralph Rossum summed up his approach as “text and tradition”: Law comprises textual rules that are promulgated by the duly-authorized instruments for issuing those rules, the text controls, it means what it meant when adopted, and we do not lightly presume that longstanding tradition has actually been at odds with text all along without anyone noticing. We should not assume that our predecessors were stupid, and we should carry the flame forward, keep doing what we’ve always done. And, unsurprisingly for a man so focused on text, he was a himself a luminous writer; as was said of Holmes, even when he was clearly wrong—think of Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association—he was wrong clearly.

What I learned from Justice Scalia is a mindset and a methodology that Judge Easterbrook has called “legalism.” Easterbrook is surely correct if he means to insinuate that the alternatives to the “legalist” approach are lawless; there is no alternative approach to legalism that is consistent with the rule of law. It begins with an assumption that when we approach legal problems, there is an objective “correct answer,” that has little or nothing to do with our subjective preferences. We ask questions such as, “what is the controlling principle? Where is that principle to be found, what is its derivation? Is this a principle that we will apply neutrally to other cases?” As has been said, we assume that where text controls, the original meaning of the text controls: The semantic content of the text as it would have been understood in the time and culture in which it was written sets the boundaries of our interpretation. We comprehend a hierarchy of authority in which there is the controlling material itself, but augmented by authoritative exposition and valuable commentary by people whose work may have great persuasive value that may in some cases compel deference. (We believe that there is peculiar authority and value to the early expositors of the text: The Federalist Papers, for example, but also the Commentaries of Justice Story and Chancellor Kent.) We reject the idea that we have the authority to change that which has been given, or that we should bend it to suit our own preferences—we reject that not because we think it ill-advised but because we think it illegitimate given the nature of the enterprise. We tackle problems using the approach and conventions of the Anglo-American legal tradition: We deal with things in writing, sewing together a patchwork quilt in which we seek to contribute only the thread of ourselves (in St. Francis de Sales’ felicitous analogy), we parse very carefully the authority and precise scope and holding of the materials before us, we ask questions and use hypotheticals to illustrate or probe the reach of principles. We think in terms of “If this is the right way to interpret the word x in section 3, it must have the same meaning in sections 4 and 5, and because it cannot have that meaning in sections 4 and 5, it presumptively cannot bear that meaning in section 3.” We think in terms of evidence: How do we know this? What is its source? We minutely account for the sources whence we drew that patchwork quilt’s components. I could go on, but the point is that this is a system for thinking about thinking—what kind of questions are controlling and how do we answer them.  

And these are lessons that apply far beyond the realm of law. Certainly they have political implications. (I was already well on the path toward conservatism by 2005—blame Newt Gingrich—but I became much more traditionalist because of the gravitational pull of Scalia’s thinking.) But religious, too: When I started to take religion seriously, it was natural that I approached it through the lens of text and tradition. Like the law, Christianity is a tradition full of many and variegated texts, and Justice Scalia had already taught me what you do with texts in a tradition. It should have been no surprise to anyone that, for example, I approached the “Luther Court”‘s sudden third-quarter left-turn with deep skepticism, or that I found the writings of the Church Fathers—in which we find the Catholic Church, in ovo but recognizable—of great importance, comparable in weight to Story and Kent. I didn’t know what the answers were when I went looking, but, thanks to Scalia, I knew what an answer is, and how one goes about finding it—what are the criteria? Would I be a Catholic today but for his influence? Perhaps; but if so, like a man who stumbles upon the right answer for the wrong reason (or no particular reason), it would been by blind luck, and would be a fragile, chancy thing.

(Intriguing, too, is that other devotees of Scalia who have subsequently become religious have likewise become Catholics. It’s certainly true that having a man like Scalia as an example to whom one can look and say “well, if someone as serious as Scalia can be a Catholic, maybe I should give it a serious look.” But it may be more than that. I think that George Kannar may very well have had it backwards: It wasn’t that Scalia’s meta-level religious assumptions biased his meta-level approach to law, it may well be that the precepts and analytical paths of legalism biases a person toward Catholicism.)

Thankyou, Sir, for your service. I would not be the man I am today without you, and if the world you leave is not better than the one you found, I dare say that it would be much worse but for your efforts.

Santo subito!

Iowa approaches

The Iowa caucuses are just under a week away. It’s not my place to tell anyone for whom to vote, but I will tell you that if I were in Iowa, I would be caucusing for Carly Fiorina.

I rank politicians—bishops, too, by the way—on an unforgiving scale: Rare indeed is one who makes it to “tolerable,” let alone “acceptable,” and only a thin cream at the very top will ever receive the accolade “adequate.” Fiorina is great. I am not only voting for her, I am supporting her, and that’s a very rare thing: To be able to affirmatively support a candidate who’s actually any good at all, rather than simply voting for one who is acceptable is off the beaten path of American politics. Unfortunately, I suspect that my reasons are too idiosyncratic to be of much help to other people. I am acutely aware of the gap between the kind of questions that I ask, the things that I find probative, and the things that apparently everyone else does. (We talked about that on episode six of the podcast in regard to Anglicanism. 1) Nevertheless, I wanted to offer a few comments, for whatever they’re worth. 

I support Fiorina because she is a great fit for my prejudices about how a President’s mind ought to work and what kind of personality a President ought to have. I grew up in Britain, where politics was largely fought in competing manifestos, before moving to the United States, where politics is largely fought in competing campaign promises; what 9/11 taught me, however, is that political promises are poor metrics for assessing a candidate’s suitability for office—and not for the reason you’re thinking. Once elected, officeholders are often overcome by events: President Obama by the financial crisis, for example, or the second President Bush by 9/11. Who would have guessed, when those men won their respective nominations, that those events would define their presidencies? I’m more interested in—I think it’s more important to know—how does this candidate think about the world? How do they process information? What are their instincts, what is their disposition? What’s their likely Myers-Briggs type? 

Seen through that lens, Fiorina is a very comfortable fit for me. In no particular order, she’s calm, intelligent, knowledgeable, quick, forthright, analytical, information-oriented, articulate, and has just the right balances of aggression and relaxation, curiosity and modesty. She has a pragmatic attitude and a conservative temperament. When she doesn’t know something, she seems inclined to woodshed until she understands it better, but without being overcome by the kind of “analysis paralysis” that besets President Obama. (On this, I share David Axelrod’s assessment that voters want a contrast with Obama’s placid, professorial passivity. 2 But there are many stops between that station and Ted Cruz’s arguably-excessive bellicosity.) Her background prepares her to delegate and run a large bureaucracy in a way that, for example, a Senator never could be. I cannot imagine her saying the kinds of things that Pope Francis says about ideas not mattering, or feigning ideological disinterest in the way that Obama does. She’s not a lawyer, but she seems to think (perhaps because her father was a ninth circuit judge, in an earlier time) as I do; we are, so-to-speak, melodies in the same key.

Having said that campaign promises are not strong metrics, however, I must add that they are indirectly useful because they can reveal a person’s substantive ideological views—and those do matter. So far as I can tell, hers are largely a good match for mine, save only that I am rather more pro-Russia than she is. (Politically, I remain in great part a product of Gingrich, Bork, Rehnquist, Hayek, WFB, the elder Kristol, the Sharon Statement, Goldwater, Rossiter, Kirk, Oakeshott, and, ultimately, Burke.) And in terms of the politics, she’s a pro-business, pro-life conservative; she isn’t a populist, but she’s a fighter, and in a climate in which the populists want a fighter, I think that they can get behind her; at the same time, I think that the way that she speaks about big government will keep the libertarians happy. So she checks off all the major constituencies within the GOP.

Lastly, it is not wholly without relevance is that I work for a women’s college that puts a lot of stress on women leaders—so duh I favor women leading. I also favor women stepping up and refusing to waiting their turn or await an invitation, no special privileges, no special pleading, just getting on with it and getting it done. No one invited Fiorina: She saw a problem and she ran toward it. That’s a good thing. That’s a leadership move. And while we’re on this point, I will say on a matter of personal privilege: If you support Mr. Sanders, that’s fine—but realize that you don’t then get to tell me that you’re more in favor of women’s leadership than I am when I’m voting for a woman to actually lead and you’re voting for an old white dude because he’s offering free stuff. The first and only valid meaning of “female leaders” is “females, leading.”

To my mind, Fiorina is the clear frontrunner and the obvious choice. Over to you.

Notes:

  1. See Things old, new, borrowed, and blue. http://simondodd.org/podcast/#1-6.
  2. See Axelrod, The Obama Theory of Trump, The New York Times, Jan. 25, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/25/opinion/campaign-stops/the-obama-theory-of-trump.html?_r=1 (op-ed).

Ramsey on the original meaning of “natural-born citizen”

One of my more popular posts from 2015 discussed the eligibility of Republican Presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. 1 Unlike the attacks on President Obama, which turned on (spurious) allegations of fact regarding the President’s birthplace, the questions raised about Rubio and Cruz involve the discernment and application of law to established facts. As an originalist, 2 I read the presidential eligibility clause as taking “natural-born,” a phrasal adjective that had established meaning in English law by the time of the framing and substituting for the royalist “subject” the more appropriately-republican “citizen.” Under this approach, Senator Rubio is plainly a natural-born citizen, but Senator Cruz’s eligibility is a harder, murkier question.

Michael Ramsey, one of the foremost originalist scholars of our time, 3 takes up the issue a new paper posted at SSRN. 4 Like me (and contra the article by Paul Clement and Neal Katyal that I discussed in my post) Ramsey is unpersuaded by the conventional wisdom; his analysis tracks mine, in the main, although in much more detail, as you would expect. He discusses in much greater detail than did I not only the development of English law—both common law and statute—but also the alternative European view elucidated by Vattel, which he considers and dismisses as a possible source of the original understanding. He also provides a more elaborate explanation of why it is the gestalt of English law that controls, rather than common-law or statute law specifically.

Ramsey takes an unexpected turn, however, and adds a caveat that is relevant to Sen. Cruz’s situation. Ramsey argues that English legal history demonstrates that parliament had assumed the power to modify the common-law, declaring not only that certain persons might be subjects, but even natural-born subjects; from this, he concludes that because Congress is expressly granted the naturalization power, it has the authority to not only “naturalize” in the normal sense, but also to declare who shall be a natural-born citizen. 5 This explains, in Ramsey’s view, why the first Congress seemingly exercised that power in the Naturalization Act of 1790. 6 Nevertheless, that Congress can make natural-born citizens, Ramsey notes, doesn’t mean that it must, or that any particular naturalization statute (such as, oh, say, 8 U.S.C. § 1401(g)) can or should be read as doing so. 7

This is a serious, well-grounded argument. But I am not quite convinced. Ramsey is certain that there is one naturalization power; if Parliament not only made subjects but also modified the common-law on who was a natural-born subject, he assumes, these are each exercises of a single power, the “naturalization power,” which was then conferred on Congress, which may now likewise not only mint citizens but declare natural-born citizens. In support of this view, he observes that the statutes by which Parliament tinkered with the common-law of natural-born subjects generally used the term “naturalize” in their titles. 8 Nevertheless, it seems to me that insofar as the founding generation’s principal authority on the law of England was Blackstone, 9 it is surely of great moment that Blackstone first classified the people within the realm as aliens and natural-born subjects, and then grouped with the former aliens of modified status, i.e. those who had been denizenized or—vitally here—naturalized. 10 As my previous post observed, “[t]he first and most obvious point to take from [Blackstone] is that a ‘natural-born’ subject is distinct from the ‘artificial’ subject, whether denizenized or naturalized.” And critical now to add is that even if Blackstone’s description is mistaken, overstated, or oversimplified as a matter of English law, I am not sure that that would make a difference: Perhaps I am overstating Blackstone’s influence, but it is not the actual content of English law that undergirds the original understanding, but what Americans of the time thought that content to be, and Blackstone, I had thought, was their principal source. If for the framers the naturalization power was the power to make citizens of persons who were not natural-born citizens, it would be be difficult to conclude that the unadorned naturalization power given to Congress included the power to define who was a natural-born citizen.

Moreover, the 1790 act, it seems to me, isn’t definitive. Ramsey concedes that it may not be dispositive, because that provision could, after all, have been unconstitutional; such an interpretation is usually disfavored, but unlike, for example, the chaplains at issue in Marsh v. Chambers, the provision in the 1790 act was repealed only five years later and never returned. 11 But there is another reason to cock an eye at the 1790 act: It’s unclear whether Congress actually exercised the power that Ramsey thinks it did. The act can be explained (plausibly, albeit not necessarily convincingly) by a close look at the text: “[T]he children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens….” 12 That text is ambiguous on its face: Ramsey, like most commentators, assumes that we must parse it as “shall be considered as being natural-born citizens,” but it could also be parsed as “shall be considered as if natural born citizens,” which cuts the other way. A cursory search of materials from the first Congress does not immediately reveal other uses of the key phrase “shall be considered as,” let alone in a less ambiguous context, but the sole use of the phrase in the second congress seems (although not beyond cavil) to cut in favor of the latter. 13

But all this is to dispute over small things. Even if I were beyond persuasion on this difference, however (which I am not), Ramsey’s contribution is a serious and welcome one. Although it doesn’t resolve the remaining difficulties involving Sen. Cruz, it underscores that the question is not frivolous and points to the correct analytic approach. The best resolution of those difficulties, we will leave for another day.

Notes:

  1. Dodd, Eligibility questions about Cruz and Rubio, Motu Proprio, March 23, 2015, http://simondodd.org/blog/?p=1842, 5 MPA __ (2015).
  2. See generally Antonin Scalia & Bryan Garner, Reading Law § 7 (2012); cf. Dodd, Party like it’s 1899, Motu Proprio, Jul. 3, 2015, http://www.simondodd.org/blog/?p=1948, 5 MPA __; Dodd, Judicial Conservatism and the Obamacare Cases, 2 MPA 26, 33 ff. (2012).
  3. I have cited his work before in, for example, For the record: Netanyahu’s visit, Motu Proprio, Jan, 29, 2015, http://simondodd.org/blog/?p=1743, 5 MPA __.
  4. Ramsey, The Original Meaning of “Natural Born.” Available at SSRN:http://ssrn.com/abstract=2712485 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2712485.
  5. Ramsey, pp.29-33.
  6. Id., pp.31-32.
  7. Id., p.34 n.126.
  8. Id., p.31; see id., pp.14-17.
  9. See, e.g., Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 712 (1997).
  10. See 1 William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Law of England 354, 361-62 (1765).
  11. Ramsey, supra, p.34 n.126.
  12. 1 Stat. 103, 104 (1790).
  13. See Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, available at http://rs6.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:@field(DOCID+@lit(sj0011)), p. 365 (Jan. 10, 1792):

    And be it further enacted, That it shall and may be lawful for the Postmaster General to enter into contracts, for a term not exceeding five years, for extending the line of posts, and to authorize the person or persons so contracting to receive, during the continuance of such contract, according to the rates by this act established, all the postage which shall arise on letters, newspapers, and packets, conveyed by any such post; and the roads therein designated shall, during the continuance of such contract, be deemed and considered as post roads, within the terms and provisions of this act….

Russia: The good, the bad, and the ugly

This term, I look an economics class, and our final papers afforded an opportunity for me to revisit a subject that used to be nearer and dearer to me than time now allows: The travails of the Russian economy following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the lessons for us of that experience. Demands of time and rubric (and, frankly, end-of-term exhaustion) mean that it’s not as good as I’d hoped—personally I’d rate it as “acceptable”—and it finishes a little flat, but I enjoyed getting back into this headspace and writing something outside of my wheelhouse. For my sins, I plead Gaiman’s Sixth Law: “Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.” Those interested can download it here.

A tentative stratification of the categories of “teaching”

Jurisdiction, several justices of the Supreme Court have bemoaned, “is a word of many, too many, meanings. This variety of meaning has insidiously tempted courts, this one included, to engage in less than meticulous, sometimes even profligate … use of the term.” 1 In Catholic parlance, a similar difficulty bedevils the word “teaching.” What in the Church is amenable to change? Can teaching change? Is Francis simply repeating what previous popes have said in the area of “social teaching”—“surely that makes it okay,” this line of reasoning means to say, “for surely we cannot fault a pope for saying what another pope said twenty years ago!”—and if not, can it change? Defenders of the Synod underscore that it has changed no teaching; defenders of the Kasper proposal before the Synod insisted that they wanted a change only in discipline, not teaching. 

The common issue between these conversations and others like them is classification. I want to suggest that it may help to think of the Church as having five different bodies of material that are sometimes called “teaching,” with varying degrees of validity.

The first class of material is properly “Teaching” in the strict sense—one meriting a nice, big, capital T. The “deposit of faith,” the revelation handed down to the apostles by Jesus, and in turn handed down by them to us through apostolic succession 2; this is “the Catholic faith” in the narrower sense of that phrase. This is what converts confess when we come into the Church: This is “teaching” in the sense meant in the reference to that which “the holy Catholic Church teaches, believes and proclaims to be revealed by God” and that we in turn “believe and profess.” And this class of material, these “teachings” never change. If Jesus said “divorce is a mortal sin,” “there are seven sacraments,” “only men can be priests,” etc. such things become fixed stars in the sky: The Church has no power to change them and has never hitherto pretended otherwise.

The second class of material that the Church has is often called “teaching” but is better called “Doctrine.” This is the authoritative elaboration of the deposit of faith and its application to moral questions, most prominently but by no means exclusively in councils and ex cathedra pronouncements. 3 A familiar example might be the elaboration of the elements of mortal sin: That which is latent and tacit in Teaching is made explicit in Doctrine. Now: Does doctrine change? As Cardinal Newman showed, doctrine does in a certain sense develop (perhaps it would be more precise to say that as our understanding of the objects of doctrine evolves, so the sophistication of the language addressed to them increases) in an organic, contiguous process of development. 4 Development is a kind of change, so, in that sense, doctrine changes; in another, more profound sense, however, doctrine does not change: Indeed, it is a lack of substantial change that Newman makes a marker for authentic development as contrasted to corruption. 5 What is later understood is always present ab initio, even if latent and glimpsed dimly if at all. So, by way of analogy, Michelangelo said that he sculpted David by recognizing the figure already in the marble and setting him free; did the block of marble change? Yes and no: Its beauty and elegance have increased, perhaps its mass has decreased and its dimensions have changed, some inessential parts have sloughed off, but is, after all, still marble. Our doctrine of the papacy, for example, is more sophisticated (or at least more elaborate) than that of St. Irenaeus, but one sees in his Adversus Haereses a view of the papacy that is consistent with our own; similarly, it is more precise than that which was pressed by the ultramontanes before Vatican I.

(Here we might note that Teaching plus Doctrine compose “the Catholic faith” in the broader sense of that term.)

The third class of material that “the Church” has is “Discipline,” which includes ritual, devotion, canon law, etc. (Here, I put “the Church” in scare-quotes because the kind of thing referred to under this heading are usually to be found at the level of the churches sui iuris rather than the Church universal.) This is in no sense “teaching,” and no one with any real familiarity with Catholicism would seriously suggest that it is. But sometimes it gets called teaching anyway, whether as a sincere shorthand or out of confusion. And of course, not uncommonly, people find it helpful to pretend otherwise in order to advance particular agendas; items that belong properly to discipline are misappropriated and labelled as teaching, sometimes in order to insist that those items cannot be changed, and sometimes—by an entirely different set of persons—to “prove” that “teaching” has and therefore can change. Discipline has changed throughout time. Orthodox and Conservative Catholics would urge that this happen rarely and organically, Reform Catholics would urge that it happen whenever they see fit, 6 but almost everyone—almost—concedes the basic reality that discipline is man-made, and therefore can change. 7

The fourth thing that the Church has is words. I realize that this class stands uneasily with its stablemates, but I want to underscore the importance and independent personality of words. Teaching and doctrine can be transmitted only through words, and these words, these formulations, can be changed. But changes in words are a sharp and double-edged sword. When traditional words are replaced with novel words, as Pius X foresaw, there is a great danger that something important will be lost, that traditional understandings will become shaky or that misunderstandings will creep in. (Worse yet—if the spirit of the age is a constant and pervasive changing of words, a sense will inevitably develop that it is not only words that are malleable, but substance, too. John XXIII unleashed great mischief by saying—not incorrectly but inopportunely—that “the substance of [teaching] … is one thing; the formulations in which it is presented are another”; how much of the catastrophe of the last five decades could have been avoided but for the plastic spirit of the age?) At the same time, however, when ambiguous or misleading words are replaced with clearer words, when conflict and disagreement has been predicated on misunderstandings arising from misinterpretations of words, there is a great opportunity that something important might be gained. An example that I have cited before is Ladislas Orsy, SJ’s suggestion that “infallibility” was an infelicitous choice of word to describe the charism that protects the extraordinary petrine magisterium. So words can be and have been changed—but they should be changed only with enormous care and delicacy and after lengthy reflection and discussion.

The fifth and final class of materials that the Church has (and perhaps the most controversial when summarized this way) might be called “commentary.” This category is hard to label but easy to describe, and it is problematic, not only because a habit of labeling it “teaching” has a propensity to improperly merge it into Teaching proper, but also because such a label, taken in a looser sense than the one used above, is not wholly unwarranted. The Church’s “social teaching” is a prominent example: A body of commentary in which the Church or particular agents within her have taken principles from Teaching and Doctrine (or derived second-order principles thence) and applied it to concrete situations of modern life. 8 It is a homily writ large. 9 And it is, inherently, wholly unlike Teaching and to a great extent quite unlike Doctrine. Like Discipline, it is human-created, lacks any divine protection, and it rests entirely on the presuppositions and knowledge that its authors bring to it—and, worse yet, those creating it do not bring the professional expertise or training to those subjects that, for example, a bishop can be presumed to have in subjects more directly within the episcopal ambit. For example, popes have written about labor unions in certain times, under certain pressures, presupposing certain facts, and having marinated in a particular political outlook: The rise of socialism, for example, the nature of work, the nature of the economy, the position of the individual, and so forth. Changes in the reality of industry have obsoleted many of those notions in some places just as they have obsoleted Marx, and to pretend that the assumptions that guided popes when writing about workers on a moving assembly line hold good for those of us who work in the Western information economy—even though they may continue to apply to those who even today work on moving assembly lines—is fantasy.

People often bridle when I use the term commentary to describe social doctrine (among other things); they imagine it as a crosshairs and project their favorite encyclical into the reticle. But the point here is not to eliminate or elide social doctrine so much as to label it in a way that its proper weight and office is understood. Moreover, popes and bishops routinely offer commentary that is not intended to be binding. My example is St. Paul , the last of the itinerant bishops, who, in a letter to St. Timothy, bishop of Ephesus, says that he does not permit women to teach or assume authority over men, preferring that they be silent on such matters. 10 Is that statement Teaching, in the strict sense, binding then and now? Doctrine, binding then as now? Certainly it was not discipline, because Paul doesn’t tell Timothy “you must do this,” he says only “I do this.” It’s commentary.

Thus, it’s very important, when someone says “the Church changed x,” first to unpack the verb (who did what, precisely) and second to understand precisely what x was and to properly categorize it. This is even true (perhaps especially true) at the acme of temptation: When x looks like teaching. Examples on this point might include usury and religious freedom. 11 This is why a clear taxonomy is necessary to assigns each item to its proper office: One cannot argue that teaching can change predicated on examples of discipline changing—priests marrying and so on—because discipline isn’t teaching. Nor can one predicate such an argument on examples of commentary changing—on the death penalty, for example. But while commentary is, as we have seen “teaching” in a broad, rhetorical sense, both idiomatically and in literal application of the language, it is not “teaching” in the narrow, technical, binding sense. This also means that yesterday’s social doctrine cannot baptize today’s; when people defend Francis by saying that he’s just saying what social teaching already says, that is not saying an awful lot.

The Church speaks in many ways and capacities, and unpacking the context is critical. It also suggests that while commentary may be useful, it cannot (wisely) ever be made the Church’s focus, for that would confuse a body of non-authoritative, human, time-bound materials for that which can properly be called the inheritance of the faith: The Catholic faith, the disciplines that shape and give it concrete forms, and the traditional formulae in which it is transmitted. It is upon those things that the bishops must focus.

Notes:

  1. Bowles v. Russell, 551 U.S. 205, 215 (2007) (Souter, J., dissenting) (alteration in original) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
  2. See, e.g., 1st Clem., cap. 42 (circa 95) (“The apostles have preached the gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ … thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first fruits [of their work], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe”); Tract for the Times no. 15 (Palmer, with Newman) (1833) (“if it is plain that the Apostles left successors after them, it is equally plain that the Bishops are these Successors. For it is only the Bishops who have ever been called by the title of Successors; and there has been actually a perpetual succession of these Bishops in the Church, who alone were always esteemed to have the power of sending other Ministers to preach and administer the Sacraments”).
  3. Cf. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity 279-80 n.4.
  4. Compare John Henry Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (1845) with Pius X, Pascendi (1907).
  5. See Newman, ch. 5.
  6. See The Strands of Catholic Thought for more on this taxonomy.
  7. An example of dissent on this point would be those who insist that Quo primum has permanent, binding effect that cannot be modified or augmented (still less abrogated) by later popes.
  8. Cf. Dodd, In re Firearms debate, 3 MPA 23, 25 (2013) (“Outside of the privileged categories of faith and morals, our shepherds’ views are always entitled to respectful consideration, but they are not controlling” (footnotes omitted)).
  9. Cf. GIRM 65-66.
  10. 1 Tim 2:12.
  11. See, e.g., Jay Richards, Did the Church change its doctrine on usury, Crisis Magazine, Dec. 8, 2014, http://www.crisismagazine.com/2014/church-change-doctrine-usury; Thomas Pink, Conscience and coercion, First Things, Aug. 2012, http://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/08/conscience-and-coercion.

Statute 2016/01 for the Diocese of Starling City

It is, of course, very easy to fault our bishops as weak, useless, spineless, ineffectual bumblers, the best of whom might, on a good day, rise to the dizzying height of “acceptable.” Very easy. Cf. St. John Chrysostom, Homily 3 on Acts. In response to such criticisms, I am sometimes asked to say just what it is that I would have them do. To answer that in the most direct possible way, this post will engage in an imaginative exercise: If I were to have been this afternoon installed as the Ordinary of Starling City, the following is the statute that I would promulgate this evening establishing new particular laws for the diocese. I would use every ounce of my authority and influence to end the postconciliar crisis in my diocese, and have little time for those clerics who could do likewise (spare a thought for curates and auxilliaries) but who choose not to. 

“As High Priest responsible for divine worship in the particular Church” to me entrusted, it is my task to “order[ ], promot[e,] and safeguard[] the entire liturgical life of the diocese….” AS 145. Considering, therefore, my “responsibility for divine worship to be [my] pre-eminent role,” AS 142, and mindful of the authorities and concerns of General Instructions of the Roman Missal 22, 92, 387, and 397, Sacrosanctum Concilium, nos. 22, 26, 41, and 114, Redemptionis sacramentum, nos. 19 et seq. and 176 et seq., Apostolorum successores, nos. 158-60 and 162, Ecclesia de myesterio, art. 8, and of canons 375 et seq. and 838 et seq. in the 1983 code, and in order that there be no “doubt about the law,” 1983 CIC 14, I do now ordain and establish the following as particular law for this diocese of Starling City.

Article 1: Particular laws

a) The physical arrangement of churches.

i) No parish of this diocese may erect a freestanding altar, nor demolish an existing high altar or communion rail. Cf. GIRM 192, 294. In cases where there is reasonable doubt as to the meaning of “freestanding” and “high,” the parish and the deanery representative of the Diocesan Commission on the Sacred Liturgy shall brief this office, which shall decide the question before any action may be taken. 

ii) Each parish without an extant high altar, in which there exists a freestanding altar constructed after December 4, 1963, is to anticipate the removal of that freestanding altar and construction of a new high altar as part of their next anticipated or scheduled renovation, with all deliberate speed. Cf. GIRM 299, 301; AS156.

iii) In parishes in which a high altar has been retained in addition to a freestanding altar constructed since December 4, 1963, use of the high altar shall resume immediately. Such parishes shall, within 365 days from the publication of this statute, remove the freestanding altar or show cause why this is not physically possible.

iv) In parishes where it is not physically impossible, the tabernacle is to be situated at the apse or natural apex of the church, and marked by a lit sanctuary lamp. 

v) Each parish that lacks an altar rail, where construction thereof is not physically impossible by reason of the general arrangement of the church building,  shall construct a temporary altar rail within two months, and  is to anticipate the construction of a permanent altar rail as part of their next anticipated or scheduled renovation, with all deliberate speed. 

b) The celebration of the liturgy.

i) It is the expectation of this diocese that the celebrant of a parish’s principal Sunday Mass will sing the ordinary chants of the Mass, that incense will be used, cf. GIRM 276 et seq., and that such Mass be celebrated at the high altar, with six lit candles thereupon, cf. GIRM 117. See generally AS148; art. 1(a)(ii), supra. 

ii) Provided that natural or candle light is sufficient, no parish is obliged to use electric lighting during the celebration of Mass. Adequate lighting for safe ingress and egress, however, must be provided before and after the Mass.

iii) The celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist in vernacular translations is suppressed in all circumstances whatsoever. Cf. GIRM 30, 352, 365; SC36.1; RS112; LA13. 

1) When celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Ordinary Form, priests shall say or sing the Eucharistic Prayer in Latin, with due attention to the relevant rubrics.

2) The chancery shall procure and make available altar cards for Eucharistic Prayer I in Latin to all parishes so requesting, at no cost to the parish.

3) Priests are encouraged to use Latin for any fitting parts of the Ordinary of the Mass, due attention being given that, “[i]n Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place … be allotted to their mother tongue.” SC54 (emphasis added).

4) No pastor shall fault or penalize any curate for celebrating any part of the Mass in Latin, or for celebrating Mass in the extraordinary form.

iv) Whether at a freestanding or high altar, the Liturgy of the Eucharist is to be celebrated versus apsidem, except where the physical arrangement of the church building makes this physically impossible. Cf. art. 1(a)(ii-iii), supra. At the discretion of the celebrant, the introductory and closing rites and the Liturgy of the Word may be celebrated versus populum and in vernacular languages. Cf. SC54. General Instruction of the Roman Missal 310 notwithstanding, the sedelia or celebrant’s chair is to be located in an unobtrusive location within the sanctuary, perpendicular to the principal axis of the church.

v) “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.” SC116. Accordingly, parishes are to make use of the proper chants in Latin or the vernacular from the Missal, in Latin from any of the books of longstanding approval, such as the Roman Gradual, or in English from the Simple English Propers. Cf. GIRM 41, 45, 48. Parishes are encouraged to form scholas for purposes of singing sacred choral music, and also to foster a participation by the congregation in the proper chants of the Mass. Cf. GIRM 40; SC 54, 118. It is the hope and expectation of this office that the congregation will within a reasonable time be able to sing the Gloria, Credo, etc., as anticipated and directed by the Second Vatican Council. Cf. SC54, 114. The liturgical use of instruments other than the pipe organ is therefore suppressed for this diocese. Cf. GIRM 352, 393; SC112, 120; RS57; MS12, 28-30.

vi) Allowing that the use of a cantor is “fitting,” GIRM 104, such use is available in this diocese where useful, but is by no means required, and a the use of a schola or choir is to be preferred.  Cf. MS19, 21. Where a choir loft is available, the schola or choir should be situated in it so as to avoid creating a focal point other than the liturgical action. Cf. GIRM 312.

vii) At the discretion of the celebrant, the presentation of gifts (“praiseworthy” but not required, GIRM 73, cf. GIRM 140), may be omitted. The offertory and communion chants shall not be amenable to substitution: If the assigned chant is not sung, the offertory shall be conducted pursuant to GIRM 142, and communion shall be conducted in silence. Cf. GIRM 45; contra MS32.

viii) The illicit practice of congregations holding hands during the Pater Noster is deprecated. Cf. SC22.3.

ix) The communal pax is hereby deemed to be “[never] appropriate,” GIRM154, in this diocese, ipso iure, and is therefore suppressed in this diocese. Cf. RS71.

x) Redemptionis Sacramentum and Ecclesia de mysterio require that all Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion have personal approval by the bishop. RS155; EM art. 8. In this diocese, only a person who has been personally commissioned for service as an EMHC by this office, in writing, for a specified period of time not exceeding six months, that has not expired, may serve as an EMHC, and all such approvals lapse at the end of each calendar year without regard to any other timeline or provision of the law. All standing approvals predating this statute are hereby declared null and void. If no deacon or other assistant is available, the celebrant may elect to distribute under a single species only. Cf. GIRM 281; RS102.

xi) For purposes of communion:

A) The adaptation of General Instruction of the Roman Missal 160 for dioceses of the United States is declared null and void in this diocese.  Cf. art. 3(g), infra.

B) The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the diocese of Starling City is on the tongue, kneeling at the altar rail (if one is present; standing if not). Cf. GIRM 160 (approved US adaptation); art. 1(a)(v), supra.

C) Nevertheless, communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they stand or choose to receive in the hand. Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm. Cf. GIRM 160 (ET).

D) Although communicants generally retain the right to receive Holy Communion in the hand, Ministers of the Eucharist should take special care to ensure that the host is consumed by the communicant in the presence of the minister, so that no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand. If there is a risk of profanation, pastors should suspend the giving of Holy Communion in the hand until such time as they are satisfied that the risk has passed, or for other good cause. Cf. RS91-92.

xiii) The addition of announcements preceding the closing rights, foreseen by GIRM 90 and 166, is suppressed. In Masses in both the ordinary and extraordinary form, such announcements and presentations as may be deemed necessary are to be given before the opening rites or after the closing rites. Cf. RS74.

Article 2: Implementation

a) Transitional indults and other provisions

i) An indult permitting the celebration of Holy Mass using an existing freestanding altar in parishes in which there exists a high altar, contrary to article 1(a)(iii) of this statute, shall be in force for 48 hours from the publication of this statute.

ii) An indult permitting the Liturgy of the Eucharist to be said in the vernacular shall be in force for 10 days from the publication of this statute.

iii) An indult permitting the congregation to sing (according to the chants provided by the Missal, cf. art 1(b)(v), supra) or recite the Sanctus and Agnus Dei in vernacular languages shall be in force for 4 weeks from the publication of this statute.

iv) An indult permitting recitation of the the Pater Noster and its response in the vernacular, shall be in force for 6 weeks from the publication of this statute.

v) In order that an orderly transition might be completed, parishes may, if necessary, celebrate Sunday Masses sine musica for up to 2 weeks following the publication of this instruction, presuming that appropriate steps to return chant to its “pride of place” are ongoing.

vi) Parishes are encouraged to engage in all appropriate instruction and catechization to ensure a smooth transition, but this statute comes into effect upon publication, and implementation is to proceed immediately, except as provided for in this article. The time limits on the indults provided above are not subject to tolling or discovery rules.

vii) Cake, and grief-counselling, will be available from the Chancery.

b) Enforcement

i) All persons in this diocese, lay, religious, or cleric, shall have recourse to the Diocesan Liturgy Office and the Diocesan Commission on the Sacred Liturgy for remedies against liturgical abuses and violations of this statute. 

ii) The bishop and the director of the Diocesan Liturgy Office shall be members of the Diocesan Commission on the Sacred Liturgy. The commission may meet, but may not vote on any question in their absence.

iii) An administrative fee of $1,000 shall be included with all applications filed pursuant to article 1(b)(x). All monies collected shall be immediately donated to programs for the the relief of the poor. 

Article 3. Additional provisions and general policies and norms

a) The policy of this diocese is that all souls be saved, that all persons should be converted to the Catholic Faith, and that, upon their arrival, they should find in their local parish a Mass celebrated in a manner consistent with the tenets of the Catholic Faith regarding the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

b) Priests who feel that the number of Masses that they are required to celebrate during the course of a weekend are encouraged to contact the Diocesan Liturgy Office. Where possible, it is to be expected that the bishop will personally and willingly take on as many as is feasible.

c) All practices in which celebrants place a congregation in the position of choosing between obeying an immediate instruction of the celebrant and the liturgical law of the Church or of this diocese are reprobated. Cf. GIRM 95.

d) A parish that is financially burdened by compliance with this statute may apply to the deanery and/or the diocese for assistance.

e) The policy of this diocese is to foster warm relationships with the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, and the Society of St. Pius X, and to maximize the number of available confessors within he diocese. Accordingly, all priests in good standing with those orders who are not under penalty of excommunication from legitimate ecclesiastical superiors, may apply for faculties to hear confessions in this diocese, which will be granted liberally. Cf. 1983 CIC 969, 972-73.

f) The policy of this diocese is to foster vocations and to encourage experimentation calculated to achieve this effect. This office stands behind those pastors who choose to make use of female altar servers, but also behind priests who abjure female altar service for purposes of fostering vocations. The clerk is directed to disregard all complaints on this point. 

g) Directives and decisions of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops are null and void within this diocese unless:

1) The conference was exercising an authority of the Holy See that has been explicitly delegated to it by the Holy See;

2) The instrument was adopted by the unanimous vote of all bishops, including the bishop of this diocese, in open session, after December 30, 2015, and the full text of the instrument is available publicly (lex occulta lex nulla).

3) The instrument separately receives the mandate of this office, or that of the Holy See.

Published 13:00 MST, Dec. 29, the year of our salvation 2015.
Simon +Dodd
3rd Bishop of Starling City, MT

What reform looks like

I am sometimes asked whether the reforms that I would implement if placed in charge of a parish’s liturgy are really practical; “is it not true,” they might ask, “that many Catholics can’t sing chant?”

I have an answer to that, but first I want to  provide some context. The seminal moment in my thinking about liturgical reform was the shift to the corrected translation. There were people who praised God for Pope Benedict and a finally-fixed the translation; there were those who cursed them for—well, that’s another story. But the average Catholic in the pews, it transpired, didn’t care. They didn’t care about the old words, they didn’t care about the new words; all they cared about was “tell me what to say and I’ll say it.” 1 They didn’t sign petitions opposing it 2; on the other hand, they didn’t they show up to the catechetical meetings to prepare them and teach them the words, either. They didn’t care—not in the sense that they were apathetic, but in the sense that it just wasn’t a big deal. They just showed up on the first Sunday in Advent and read different words. 3

At the time, this stunned me as much as it probably stunned Tony Ruff and the other would be mutineers, and I have other things to say about that, but for now, I just want to set that there as background. The point is that what happened, happened: The implementation happened with minimal fuss, even from those who weren’t very happy about it. 

With that in mind as background, I must say that I doubt very much that the average Catholic in the pews can’t learn chant. They aren’t being asked to sing the Exsultet—I have complete confidence that they will readily learn the Ordinary chants without any difficulty, just as they readily learn to sing the settings to which those parts are put in most parishes. It isn’t as though Catholics have never been asked to learn to sing newly-composed music at any point in the last five decades. Again, the promulgation of the corrected translation is instructive: The Missal supplies chants for the Ordinary, and our curate started using them at daily Mass. Within a few days, the daily Mass crowd were singing along from memory. It’s not difficult.

But even if I agreed, even if I thought that it would be difficult or that it would take a while, I don’t care. I just don’t think that it matters. Every time a new Mass setting or hymn is adopted by a parish, some, all, or none of the congregation learns to sing it—or they don’t, and no one cares. How many times have you assisted at a Mass at which an excessively-enthusiastic cantor is singing a song substituted for the Introit, and about a third of the congregation is mumbling along half-heartedly? No one seems to think that that’s a problem, or at least not a sufficient one to rethink their chosen musical course. In parishes where a choir sings more elaborate material at any part of the Mass, no one expects the congregation to join in—or cares if they can and do.

So what will happen if I get my way and implement my reforms? Will it ruffle feathers and create serious difficulties? I doubt that. What would happen is that the cantors, instruments, and the ghastly music would go away overnight. On the first Sunday, a schola of between one and ten people (depending on who I can scrounge up after purging the choir) will sing the ordinary (from the Missal) and proper (from the Simple English Propers) chants from the choir loft, where they’re supposed to be. This will be a shock for the congregation, no doubt. 

The following Sunday, the congregation still won’t be singing the propers, I’m sure. But they aren’t now, either: I have never assisted at a novus ordo Mass where the propers are even said, let alone sung, so what is being lost is not congregational singing of the propers, but congregational singing of some trite hymn, substituted licitly or otherwise for the proper chant. No loss. And meanwhile, some of them will pick up on the ordinary parts, and that will grow in time. The schola will have gotten tighter in their performance, and maybe they’ve even had time to rehearse a very simple piece of polyphony that we can slot in—say, the Agnus Dei from Byrd’s four-voice Mass.

My hope would be that after a few months, the schola will be able to sing simple polyphonic ordinaries for at least one Sunday service, and the congregation will be able to sing the chants from the missal for the other services. I suspect that within a year, a good fraction of the congregation will be able to sing along with the propers, but even if they can’t, I’m okay with that. And you know what? There may be people who will praise God for me, and others who rue the day and sign petitions to get rid of me, but what the introduction of the corrected translation tells me is that the average Catholic in the pews won’t care.

Reform is not complicated; it’s not even hard. What it requires is merely will on the part of the clergy.

Notes:

  1. Cf. Burnet v. Coronado Oil & Gas Co., 285 U.S. 393, 406 (1932) (Brandeis, J., dissenting) (“in most matters, it is more important that the applicable rule of law be settled than that it be settled right”).
  2. See, e.g., https://web.archive.org/web/20120201204428/http://www.whatifwejustsaidwait.org.
  3. Some more happily than others, to be sure, but the point is that they just got on with it. See, e.g., http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/27/new-mass-translation_n_1114948.html.

The strands of Catholic Thought

I have a long-form essay, The Strands of Catholic Thought, now available here.  It responds to (among other things) an analogy proposed by the Remnant last year (subsequently taken up, for the hat-trick, by Marquette’s Daniel Maguire and Fr. Dwight Longenecker). The Remnant‘s notion was that a “rough parallel” for our current divisions (in which there are three distinct Catholic factions, those who reject the “Vatican II project,” those who accept it, and those who accept the text of the council but reject what was done after it in the name of its “spirit”) might be “the division of Judaism into Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox branches.” Finding this powerful, I propose that we adopt that taxonomy and embrace the idea that the three “strands” of Catholic thought since the Council might be usefully denominated “Reform Catholicism,” “Conservative Catholicism,” and “Orthodox Catholicism.”

On November 18th, 2015, the feast of Pope St. Martin I: “Glorious definer of the Orthodox Faith … sacred chief of divine dogmas, unstained by error … true reprover of heresy … foundation of bishops, pillar of the Orthodox faith, teacher of religion…. Thou didst adorn the divine see of Peter, and since from this divine Rock, thou didst immovably defend the Church, so now thou art glorified with him.”