Holy Doors, Batman! Plus: Archaeology

Sealed holy door, St. Peter's

Sealed holy door, St. Peter’s

When The Anchoress asks, you can’t say no.

Elizabeth Scalia noticed that the Year of Mercy involved the opening of doors and thought, “Hm, I know I guy with a head full of useless knowledge who can explain this to Aleteia readers without putting them to sleep much!”

But that guy was busy so she wound up with me.

Here’s my FAQ on Porta Sancta, relevant this year and, er … in another 25 years: When is a Door Not Just a Door? When It’s a “Holy Door.”

Also, I’ve been gathering up little bits and pieces of archaeology stories that I might normally have put up in a quick blog post on the old site, but instead compiled as Archaeology Briefs, although I actually wear boxers.

Please remember to use my Amazon link this shopping season. Obscure theology books and Hammer movies don’t buy themselves.

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Charles Dickens to Boston: Hate the Poor Less

Dickens in 1842, when he visited Boston.

Dickens in 1842, when he visited Boston.

When Charles Dickens visited Boston in February 1842, the city was seething with anti-immigrant (specifically Irish) and anti-Catholic hate that had already seen the Ursuline convent riot and would soon witness the rise of the Know-Nothing Party. The bigotry of the age moved even Dickens, who deplored Popery, to condemn anti-Catholic hate in Barnaby Rudge (1840-41).

It was against the background of a growing and despised immigrant underclass that he delivered these words to the Boston brahmins at a dinner in his honor. Although admittedly sentimental, his Christian plea not to step on the poor still has a simple appeal.

I believe that Virtue shows quite as well in rags and patches, as she does in purple and fine linen. I believe that she and every beautiful object in external nature, claims some sympathy in the breast of the poorest man who breaks his scanty loaf of daily bread. I believe that she goes barefoot as well as shod. I believe that she dwells rather oftener in alleys and by−ways than she does in courts and palaces, and that it is good, and pleasant, and profitable to track her out, and follow her. I believe that to lay one’s hand upon some of those rejected ones whom the world has too long forgotten, and too often misused, and to say to the proudest and most thoughtless “These creatures have the same elements and capacities of goodness as yourselves, they are moulded in the same form, and made of the same clay; and though ten times worse than you, may, in having retained anything of their original nature amidst the trials and distresses of their condition, be really ten times better;” I believe that to do this is to pursue a worthy and not useless vocation.

Two Visions of the Church: John O’Malley’s Grave Errors

v2People viewing first the synod, and then l’affaire Douthat, from afar may wonder how we got to this point. What is the source of these stark divisions–in the church, the synod, the theological discipline, and the laity–that cause this kind of hostility?

The answer is actually fairly simple.

One side understands that the work of the council was to produce 16 documents reorienting the eternal and unchanging teachings of the church for the modern world. This what Pope Benedict meant by a “hermeneutic of continuity.” The teachings are in perfect continuity with the teachings of the church. The council addressed praxis.

The other side practices a “hermeneutic of rupture,” which approaches the council as a kind of ongoing event, initiated in the 1960s, of ever-evolving church teachings wrapped in the fluffy gauze of the Spirit of Vatican II. This side is, of course wrong, and the precise scope of its error is encapsulated in the following quote from John O’Malley’s What Happened at Vatican II.

Apparently, what happened was not debate between liberal and conservative wings resulting in 16 documents, but a series of seismic changes…

…from commands to invitations, from laws to ideals, from definition to mystery, from threats to persuasion, from coercion to conscience, from monologue to dialogue, from ruling to serving, from withdrawn to integrated, from vertical to horizontal, from exclusion to inclusion, from hostility to friendship, from rivalry to partnership, from suspicion to trust, from static to on-going, from passive acceptance to active engagement, from fault-finding to active appreciation, from prescriptive to principled, from behavior modification to inner appropriation.

This is madness. It’s actually embarrassing that a professor at a leading university could produce such raw nonsense. And yet this is the way a certain school of theology and church history actually sees the council, and thus their role as banner-carriers for the Spirit of Vatican II, fighting threats, coercion, legalism, exclusion, hostility, suspicion, and lack of principle. (Psss, I think they mean us, Ross.)

The mind that conceives such a paragraph not only doesn’t grasp the true history of the council (for this list is so obviously wrong and biased that only a True Believer could produce it), but has cast himself as hero of a conflict playing out in his own mind. It establishes a clear set of conflicts between us (The good progressives! Yay!) and them (The bad reactionaries! Boo!). The Other (eg, Ross Douthat, and other Catholics who take a traditional line along with St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict, and others) is an obvious enemy to be mocked and crushed.

And thus it was no surprise to find the first name on the list of signatories to the petition seeking the removal of Ross Douthat from the New York Times was

…yeah, you guessed it: “John O’Malley, SJ (Georgetown University).”

Does that clarify things a bit?