Tuesday, March 4, 2014


A disclaimer, I don't think we should make fast and abstinence a matter of mortal sin. It should be an invitation to live a more ascetic life year round as a goal and a good work for one's spiritual health and the graces God gives.

Our practices of no meat on Friday, strict Lenten observances, ember days and the like were very, very horizontal and in the best since of the word. It created Catholic community when we did what we did as a group, not on a highly individualistic basis. 

So my suggestion to Holy Mother Church and her Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome is to guide us back to the pre-Vatican II legislation but not making it a moral matter, but a spiritual matter that we should gladly do in a horizontal way with our Catholic brothers and sisters throughout the world.

So this is what I would legislate if I were pope (thank God, I'm only and lowly priest):

1. Catholic fast for three hours before Holy Communion between the ages of 18 and 59, otherwise it is for one hour for all other ages

2. All ages of Catholics abstain from meat each Friday of the year, unless a solemnity falls on a Friday and all ember days are re-instituted and require abstinence as well

3. During Lent everyday except Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation are days of Fasting for those 18 through 59 with dispensations easily granted for others for real need

4. Every Wednesday and Friday are days of abstinence during Lent

What do you think? Would it recover a horizontal Catholicism lost after Vatican II?


Православный физик said...

I like it

John Nolan said...

These practices were indeed mandated by the Church, but at a time when there was an accepted Catholic identity and a uniform liturgy. After the Council everything was up for grabs - even the Mass, the thing that was most important to Catholics, became a matter of subjective change and enormous regional variation. Fasting before Communion? Friday abstinence? They all went in the 1960s.

It was also a generational thing; the idea of obligation was replaced in the 1960s by the principle of choice. My father, born in 1920, cordially disliked the liturgical changes but still attended out of a sense of obligation. I had no time for this; the fact that I would have to go out of my way to attend something that was remotely traditional represented an effort on my part that was above and beyond the call of duty, or so I thought.

My father was probably right, but I had, like he, been born in a century where everything one might have assumed immutable was subverted and perverted.

Anonymous said...

Aside from Catholic identity and the general concept of penance, perhaps the most important of those you mentioned would be re-instituting a meaningful Eucharistic fast. For it might reinforce the concept of preparation for holy communion in other ways (confession,etc). The fact now that everyone who didn't finish their Big Mac on the way up the church steps qualifies contributes to the current practice of communion by everyone present regardless of their state of grace. In former days the natural assumption--especially at a late morning Mass--was that those not receiving had not finished breakfast in time. Now, many may fear being looked askance as grievous sinners if they don't join the queue.

Jacob said...

I say yes Father. I am at a FSSP parish and we follow these rules. Our children grow up with these pre Vat II rules and they are a part of their lives forever. It is a good thing

Rood Screen said...

Great post, Father McDonald!

First, I agree there should be communal fasting and abstinence on Fridays and during Lent, and I think the duty of fast and abstinence should "bind gravely", as Paul VI put it in 1966.

Second, I agree that all weekdays of Lent should be days of abstinence, but I'm not so sure about fasting on all those days.

Third, reading Paul VI's letter on the subject, he seemed concerned for malnourished populations when he permitted alternatives to abstinence from meat. Therefore, making the Way of the Cross or substantial performance of the Works of Mercy should remain legitimate alternatives for poor Catholics.

Fourth, I think it's better to say that communicants should be physically hungry when receiving Holy Communion. I'm afraid if they're given a strict time frame of three hours, the majority will just not Communicate at all.

Finally, I think Ember Days should be recovered, but that this restoration is a relatively minor matter compared to Fridays and Lent.

Pater Ignotus said...

Much of what was assumed to be immutable never was.

And that was part of the accumulated baggage the Church carried for too long, prompting the bishops of the Church to begin the much-needed reform.

In the best SENSE of the word, practices of mortification are vertically oriented, helping us to understand our proper relationship to the created world and enabling us to understand our spiritual nature.

Anonymous said...

This is actually a part f my Lent that I have added!

No meat on Wednesdays and no Meat on Friday. Going a step further I decided this year that I would not eat until Sundown on Friday. This is making up for last Lent when I did a horrible job of everything. Trying to make up for it :)

I wish these things were still mandated though. It seems if you make things an option, people will always take the easy way.

John Nolan said...

Pater Ignotus is of course right when he says that much that was considered immutable in fact wasn't, but whether the wholesale discarding of established practices was a 'much-needed reform' is too glib to pass muster. The Eastern Churches and other religions e.g. Islam are rather more circumspect about jettisoning established customs as simply 'accumulated baggage'. PI is a typical V2 construct, replacing action with an airy-fairy theoretical concept which most ordinary people don't understand or can easily relate to. Even the preferred style of worship of these people is overly wordy and devoid of symbolism.

Gene said...

So, Ignotus, why don't you run down to Mello Mushroom and grab a pizza before Mass…LOL!

rcg said...

Fasting is easy in NO parishes; practically everything is in bad taste.

Anonymous said... would seem that John Nolan fancies fashioning Catholicism after Islam. Hmmm.

Pater Ignotus said...

John - It is easy to look back with 20-20 hindsight and say "This wasn't done well" or "That should never have been done."

That's all very well and good, but living in the past or pining for the past is a waste of time.

What Eastern Orthodoxy or Islam does is of little concern to me. They both operate in very - VERY - different circumstances and have very different reasons for maintaining the status quo.

I am entirely comfortable with theoretical concepts as the basis for my actions since, as you know, that's exactly what our theology is - a theory of the understanding of God.

What I am not comfortable with is confusing our theologizing with the actual nature of God or the mind of God.

rcg said...

PI, I know you don't mean it that way, but your response at 8:21 is nearly Nihilistic. I do think it captures what I have sensed for years in the NO parishes: that the best man can do is negligible different from the worst, so if the best is accptable God only through His forbearance, as is stated I the Roman Canon, then by calculus the worst is good enough Him as well. I think the difference is not that the Liturgies are any better than a child's art taped to the Creator's refrigerator, but that one is done with the most sincere respect and humility in its inadequacy and the other was done as an assignment.

Gene said...

Theology is more than a "theory" of the understanding of God. Christian theology is based upon revealed truths and builds upon them. It is non-scientific and supra-natural. But, since you refused to confess your belief in those revealed truths (when asked to do so by another blogger) we might hypothesize, based upon that, that these revealed truths do not figure in your "theology." Also, your preference for unbelieving Bible exegetes (Margaret Nutcase Ralphs) as material for your parish Bible studies might be another bit of evidence to support this hypothesis.

RCG, re: nihilism All humanism is ultimately nihilism. Think about it.

Pater Ignotus said...

rcg - True curiosity here - what in my post leads you to think I am a nihilist?

Pin/gene - No, theology is not "non-scientific" and not "supra-natural."

A commonly accepted definition of theology is "the rational and systematic study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truth."

Also, "The science of God or of religion; the science which treats of the existence, character, and attributes of God, his laws and government, the doctrines we are to believe, and the duties we are to practice; divinity; (as more commonly understood) “the knowledge derivable from the Scriptures, the systematic exhibition of revealed truth, the science of Christian faith and life.”

Theology is our thinking about God. As such it is rational (it makes coherent sense, hence the importance of the analogy of faith; see CCC 114: Be attentive to the analogy of faith. By "analogy of faith" we mean the coherence of the truths of faith among themselves and within the whole plan of Revelation) and scientific (it is ordered).

John Nolan said...

"It would seem that John Nolan fancies fashioning Catholicism after Islam". I don't know who you are, mate, since you hide behind anonymity, but you are obviously as thick as short planks. I suggest you leave this blog, but make sure that your knuckles don't drag on the ground as you go.

Anonymous said...

John-Boy...aren't we touchy?
I don't know who you are either..."mate"...just know that you clearly have a very high regard for yourself.

And it would please me if you were to decide to remove your pompous, often windy arse from the blog.

Dragging, are very clever.

John Nolan said...


Sicut sonitus spinarum ardentium sub olla, sic risus stulti.

rcg said...

PI, I wrote 'nearly' because I don't think you are. But your post insinuates indifference to the alternatives it presents. Considering your commitment to the Church I know that is not intended.

Anonymous said...

As you often do, John-Boy, you're showing off. Speak English.

George said...

Pater Ignotus:

When the topic of science is brought up what comes to mind for many is the scientific method which is not something one would apply to theological development. From this perspective, theology is not "scientific". Also, the body of theological works which have developed over the centuries in the Catholic church are not solely the spiritual ponderings of the human intellect. The Divine inpiration of the Holy Spirit comes into play in some way or another.

In your last paragraph you do bring up an important point. What leads one into accepting the validity and truth of a system of belief such as Catholicism is that there is a conformance and rational coherence (and an absence of contradiction) between each of the precepts, doctrines and dogmas of that belief system.
Faith is still necessary but we are aided in our own Faith by this "analogy of faith" and by the Magisterium of the Church.

John Nolan said...

Not showing off, Anony-Boy, just assuming a basic education and familiarity with the Vulgate on what is after all a Catholic blog. Ecclesiastes 7:6, if you need to look it up. You've already given ample evidence of the extent of your ignorance, so there's no need to parade it.

Gene said...

Revealed truth is non-scientific and supra-natural, Ignotus. Once we accept these revealed truths, theology has its own logic and rationality and must be internally consistent. But, if we do not accept the supra-natural premise, theology becomes merely a word game and a branch of philosophy.

Gene said...

Anony-boy, If Nolan were to actually show off, none of us on the blog (including the Priests) would be equipped to respond to him.
Respect your elders by keeping quiet in the corner...

Anonymous said...

My God, John Nolan, you are SO BRILLIANT....and SO ANNOYING.

Pater Ignotus said...

George - Your understanding of "science" is too narrow. "Science" refers to any systematic and rational study of any thing. Theology is the systematic and rational study of God and our relationship to God. This is how theology is rightly called a "science."

St. Augustine called theology "reasoning or discussion concerning the Deity." Anglican theologian Richard Hooker (1554-1600) defined theology as "the science of things divine."

To think of "science" as referring only to material matters or to those things subject to physical measurement and description is inadequate.

I think you'd have to go a long way to come up with an acceptable understanding of "inspiration" as it might apply to theologians throughout the history of the Church. In fact, I don't think that theologians are inspired, at least not as we understand the writers of Sacred Scripture to be inspired.

Men and women have used their God-given intellectual abilities to explain reasonably and/or rationally the divine truths that have been revealed and how we relate to these truths. This does not require some special gift of the Holy Spirit (inspiration). Rather, it requires that the theologian use the gifts he/she has already been given.

The Magisterium, on the other hand - the pope and the bishops - are given the gift of teaching Truth without error. That is certainly a kind of supernatural inspiration, though still not the same as the inspiration of the Scripture authors.

Pin/Gene - Revealed truth is not theology. We call that "Revelation." When humans take up the task of reasoning about the revealed truths, then we have become theologians.

Theology is a science and it is the work of natural beings we call theologians.

Gene said...

Ignotus, Are you that dumb? Theology is based upon revelation…revealed truth. Revealed truth transcends science. Theology is only a science after revelation…therm it has its own logos…theologic. Quit being deliberately dense.

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - Revelation is not theology. Your attempt to conflate the two fails stupendously.

No one denies that theology flows from revelation, but it is an error to equate revelation with theology. And it is an error to deny that theology is a science. And it is an error to say that because theology is based on revelation it is, therefore, beyond science.

I'm not dense, I am accurate. And as is so often the case, I am also standing right with the Church and the Theologian-Saints:

Augustine says: (De Trin. xiv, 1) "to this science alone belongs that whereby saving faith is begotten, nourished, protected and strengthened."

Aquinas says: "I answer that, Sacred doctrine is a science..."

Aquinas further says: "So it is that sacred doctrine is a science because it proceeds from principles established by the light of a higher science, namely, the science of God and the blessed. Hence, just as the musician accepts on authority the principles taught him by the mathematician, so sacred science is established on principles revealed by God"

Where stand ye?

Gene said...

Ignotus, to say that theology is based upon revelation is not to equate the two. You continue to prevaricate and you remain fundamentally dishonest.

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - You keep saying that theology is not a science. It is, and the quotes I have cited show that it is regarded as a science by saints, theologians, and the Church.

Revealed truth transcends science. Theology does not.

I'm not dishonest, I am accurate.

Unknown said...

Someone (Anon, specifically) is in serious need of a rabies vaccination…

George said...

Pater Ignotus:

I understand your use of the term science. I'm aware of how it can be used in different way (as in "Science of the Saints"). I like to think of science and philosophy as disciplines which seek to discover the truth. Theological knowledge does develop from the employment of the intellect by man
toward understanding and knowing more about God. The discipline of Science seeks the truth by discovering demonstrably verifiable and repeatable truths from which laws can be fashioned. It does not require faith, at least as we normally understand and apply that term. Theology requires faith "a knowing beyond knowing" since it deals with Transcendent and revealed Truth (this the foundation Christian theology is built on). Both Catholics and atheists accept scientific facts, but part ways when it comes to Theology and the truth we as Catholics affirm it contains.
(And no, I don't disagree with how
Aquinas uses the term.)

Gene said...

Ignotus, where, exactly, did I say theology is not a science? I said it is only a science after we accept revealed truth, which is not subject to scientific verification. You are so dishonest and such a liar that you are incapable of reading properly. You are possibly the most disgusting individual with whom I have ever had to discourse.

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - First, you do not "have" to discourse with me. You choose to do so.

Second, you stated, "Christian theology is based upon revealed truths and builds upon them. It is non-scientific and supra-natural."

"It" in that sentence refers to theology, unless you are using some highly idiosyncratic form of English. (No, "it" does not refer to truths, because "truths" is plural and then you would have to have said, "They are non-scientific and supra-natural.")

That's where you said that theology was not a science.

George - theology is commonly referred to as a science. Not only that, it has been for centuries referred to as the Queen of Sciences.

If you understand "science" to refer only to laboratories, test tubes, and devastatingly dull statistical analysis, then, no, theology is not a science.

You are quite right in saying that natural science and theology have different starting point but share the same goal - the search for truth.

And you are quite right in saying that Catholics and atheists do not agree on matters pertaining to revealed truth since atheists do not accept that there is revealed truth.

There is nothing sinister or even inappropriate in my calling theology a science since it has been called that by the greatest theologians of the Church.

John Nolan said...

In the High Middle Ages theology was regarded as 'the queen of sciences'. There is a broad definition of science meaning knowledge, and one which would restrict the term to knowledge ascertained by observation and experiment, critically tested, systematized and brought under general principles. This latter definition would exclude not only theology, history and even natural history, but the so-called 'social sciences' or for that matter 'climate science' (which appears to rely more on hypothesis and computer modelling than on empirical evidence).

I like Pater Ignotus's definition of science as the 'systematic and rational study of any thing'. It has the advantage of being neither too vague nor too restrictive, and doesn't imply that the results of such study represent the absolute and immutable truth.