26 February 2010

Austen Liturgical Allegory

If today's faithful Catholic is represented by Elizabeth Bennet, bright, hopeful and coming of age, then the liturgical forms would have to be represented by Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham.

Mr. Wickham is immediately accessible, loves to talk--especially about how bad ol' Darcy is-- has some initial minor flash but soon proves to be tedious and unreliable.

Mr. Darcy at first glance looks stuffy and condescending, but proves over time to be noble, true, of high quality and charitable.

The ordinary and the extraordinary.

Yes, I actually thought this, and then typed it, and therefore I am a loser.

P.S. Mrs. Bennet would represent Marek Bozek. Just sayin'.

25 February 2010

Meatless Friday Thursday, Lenten Edition: The Case Against a College Education?

Ramesh Ponnuru penned this piece for Time Magazine. I post it as a conversation-starter here. College education is a common subject in many orthodox Catholic circles, homeschooled or otherwise, especially as it relates to Catholicity, cost, commute-or-away, and desirability for particular circumstances.

The Case Against College Education

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Even in these days of partisan rancor, there is a bipartisan consensus on the high value of postsecondary education. That more people should go to college is usually taken as a given. In his State of the Union address last month, President Obama echoed the words of countless high school guidance counselors around the country: "In this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job." Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, who gave the Republican response, concurred: "All Americans agree that a young person needs a world-class education to compete in the global economy."

The statistics seem to bear him out. People with college degrees make a lot more than people without them, and that difference has been growing. But does that mean that we should help more kids go to college — or that we should make it easier for people who didn't go to college to make a living?

We may be close to maxing out on the first strategy. Our high college drop-out rate — 40% of kids who enroll in college don't get a degree within six years — may be a sign that we're trying to push too many people who aren't suited for college to enroll. It has been estimated that, in 2007, most people in their 20s who had college degrees were not in jobs that required them: another sign that we are pushing kids into college who will not get much out of it but debt.

The benefits of putting more people in college are also oversold. Part of the college wage premium is an illusion. People who go to college are, on average, smarter than people who don't. In an economy that increasingly rewards intelligence, you'd expect college grads to pull ahead of the pack even if their diplomas signified nothing but their smarts. College must make many students more productive workers. But at least some of the apparent value of a college degree, and maybe a lot of it, reflects the fact that employers can use it as a rough measure of job applicants' intelligence and willingness to work hard.

We could probably increase the number of high school seniors who are ready to go to college — and likely to make it to graduation — if we made the K-12 system more academically rigorous. But let's face it: college isn't for everyone, especially if it takes the form of four years of going to classes on a campus.

To talk about college this way may sound élitist. It may even sound philistine, since the purpose of a liberal-arts education is to produce well-rounded citizens rather than productive workers. But perhaps it is more foolishly élitist to think that going to school until age 22 is necessary to being well-rounded, or to tell millions of kids that their future depends on performing a task that only a minority of them can actually accomplish.

The good news is that there have never been more alternatives to the traditional college. Some of these will no doubt be discussed by a panel of education experts on Feb. 26 at the National Press Club, a debate that will be aired on PBS. Online learning is more flexible and affordable than the brick-and-mortar model of higher education. Certification tests could be developed so that in many occupations employers could get more useful knowledge about a job applicant than whether he has a degree. Career and technical education could be expanded at a fraction of the cost of college subsidies. Occupational licensure rules could be relaxed to create opportunities for people without formal education.

It is absurd that people have to get college degrees to be considered for good jobs in hotel management or accounting — or journalism. It is inefficient, both because it wastes a lot of money and because it locks people who would have done good work out of some jobs. The tight connection between college degrees and economic success may be a nearly unquestioned part of our social order. Future generations may look back and shudder at the cruelty of it.

The Beauty of a Sister in Prayer

This photo was taken by Jerry Naunheim prior to the beginning of the jubilee Mass at the chapel of the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus a few months back. The sister is Sister Marie of the Love of God, U.S. Superior of the Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus Christ Sovereign Priest.

News from the Institute's African Missions

From the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest comes great news of their thriving efforts in West Africa:

Our Lady of Lourdes: A Growing Parish

The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest has been situated in Libreville, the capital city of Gabon, for over four years. Last year our Archbishop, Msgr. Basile Mvé Engone, erected our apostolate as a parish and installed Canon de Ternay as the pastor.

The support of our Archbishop is a great blessing. Since our apostolate has become a parish, it has not ceased to grow. In 2008 we had 15 baptisms and about 150 parishioners; in 2009 we had 41 baptisms and are now approaching 500 parishioners! And this year we have 44 adults preparing for their baptism in our catechism program. In fact, at Our Lady of Lourdes parish we have more than 170 faithful in catechism spread out over 6 classes. There are 3 levels for children; confirmation preparation; perseverance; and adult catechism. We have quickly outgrown our temporary chapel.

Although the large mission church is still under construction, we were able to have Holy Mass there for the first time on Ash Wednesday.

Other activities that take place at the parish are: daily mass, three divine offices recited publicly every day, daily public rosary, four adorations per week, two prayer groups Rosa Mystica and Emmanuel, English and Latin classes, each once a week, three practices a week for our St. Benedict’s Choir, and weekly Altar Boy practices and liturgical formation sessions, and on Sundays, Solemn High Mass and Solemn Vespers.

This all of course in addition to the sacramental needs of the faithful, such as confessions and spiritual direction, communion and visits to the sick and orphanages, house blessings and exorcisms. The parish also organizes retreats, summer camps, and various conferences. The most recent event was the successful Gregorian Chant session directed by Canon Wulfran Lebocq, choirmaster of the Institute’s international seminary, and crowned with the presence of our Archbishop who presided over Pontifical Vespers at the parish.

What blessings! Thank you for your continued prayers and support for the glory of God and the salvation of souls!

Reverend Deacon Michael Stein

Learn more about their African missions
If you wish to pray for the Institute, here is a good daily prayer:

Daily Consecration of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest to the Blessed Virgin Mary

In the presence of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and with heaven and earth as our witness, we prostrate ourselves at thy feet, O Mary, Our Lady.

We acknowledge Thee as our Mother, as the Immaculate Conception, living tabernacle of the Divinity, as Queen of angels and of men, as Mother of the Church and of the Catholic priesthood, and as refuge of the afflicted. That is why, small and weak that we are, we wish to consecrate to Thee our Institute, our families, our persons, our works, our future, all that pertains to us and is in us, and which God, in His immeasurable goodness, has entrusted to us for our good use.

We also consecrate to Thee the value of our good actions, past, present, and future, leaving to Thee the entire and full right of disposing of us and all that belongs to us. Mary, be our Mother; sanctify us, purify us, correct us, guide us, pray for us and protect us.

Help us to perfectly fulfill the duties of our state of life. Extinguish in us all self-love, which prevents Thy Divine Son, King and Sovereign Priest, from reigning in and around us.

Cover abundantly with thy maternal protection all the parishes, chapels, schools, works and missions entrusted to the Institute, and mayest Thou forever impede the devil from reigning, in any manner, in this Institute which desires to be entirely Thine for the greater glory of God, the exaltation of our Mother the Holy Catholic Church, and for the conversion of sinners. Amen.

More of the Same

It gets hard to even pretend to care about which political party is in power when this is what you get. Democrats give lip service to protecting individual liberties in order to kill as many babies as possible and hold on to personal power. Republicans give lip service to the pro-life effort in order to project American empire and hold on to personal power. Neither of these groups would know the Constitution if it bit them in the rear:

Senate votes to extend Patriot Act
Democrats retreat from adding new privacy protections to the law

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Wednesday to extend for a year key provisions of the nation's counterterrorism surveillance law that are scheduled to expire at the end of the month.

In agreeing to pass the bill, Senate Democrats retreated from adding new privacy protections to the USA Patriot Act.

The Senate approved the bill on a voice vote with no debate. It now goes to the House.

24 February 2010

Cardinal Canizares Petitions for Universal Feast Day of Jesus Christ Eternal High Priest

As a regular attendee of an Oratory of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, the Votive Mass of Jesus Christ Eternal High Priest is very familiar to me, and is one of my favorites. In the Extraordinary Form it is one of the Votive Masses common to Thursdays, and there is a feast day local to Spain on the Thursday after Pentecost.

Thus I am glad to hear the news that Spanish Cardinal Canizares-Llovera, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, is asking the Holy Father to extend this feast day to the universal Church. From
New Liturgical Movement:

His Eminence Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, announced this Monday his intention to ask the Holy Father, in this Year for Priests, to extend the Feast of Jesus Christ the Eternal High Priest (D.N.J.C. Summi et Æterni Sacerdotis) to the Entire Church (source: Religión Confidencial). The feast is currently celebrated in Spain on the Thursday after Pentecost by concession of Paul VI. The concession is from 1970, and had been petitioned for by the then Archbishop of Valencia José María García Lahiguera, the "Apostle of the Priests", who helped the persecuted priests of Madrid during the Spanish civil war, founded in 1938 the Oblate Sisters of Christ the Priest dedicated to prayer and sacrifice for the sanctification of the priests, and whose process of beatification was opened in 1995.

A Mass de D.N.J.C. Summo et Æterno Sacerdote was first introduced, as a votive Mass for Thursdays, under Pius XI and announced in his Encyclical Ad Catholici Sacerdotii of 1935, and remains as such in the Missale Romanum of the Extraordinary Form. It is also contained as a votive Mass in the Roman Missal of the Ordinary Form. Fr Mark of Vultus Christi has
a comparison of the two Mass formularies.

23 February 2010

22 February 2010

Just as Good, No Doubt

Dear Canada,

You lost to the U.S. in hockey.

But hey, you won ice dancing. Go crazy!

Your Friends Down South

Murderer Displays Victims' Dead Bodies, But No Crime Committed

This post--the story and the commentary-- is exactly on point:

Shocked? What’s there to be shocked about?

A woman has her last abortion.

Philadelphia and Federal authorities raided a doctor's office after a woman died during an abortion…

We’re not shocked by the abortion, or by the death of the woman during the abortion…

But we are about this?

…and made a shocking discovery: more than two dozens frozen fetuses.

Am I missing something here?

He performs abortions!

Maybe they were his trophies.

What difference does it make?

The damage has been done.

I doubt that he brought them out as a “teachable moment” to discourage the killing of a baby.

So far, Dr. Gosnell has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing.

I only wish that the law enforcement agencies will have a press conference and display the confiscated “goods”, just like they do with drug busts and stolen property stings, if he is charged.

Now that would be shocking.

More and More Good News

The St. Louis Review published in last Friday's edition a very nice Lenten reflection by Canon Michael Wiener of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, Rector of St. Francis de Sales Oratory.

I have been wanting to post it here, but for some reason, though I have given the Review the pint of blood and iris scan it demands to access its content online, it won't let me view it anyway. It's sort of like the Monty Python Insurance Sketch where the vicar plunked down for the "Never-Pay Policy".

So, if you are fortunate enough to have 1) a subscription to the Review and 2) some luck, you can follow the link above to the "Opinions" tab, then click "Viewpoints".

However that may be, the decision of the Review's editor and board to publish this is welcome indeed. A very good sign of good things happening under new leadership.

As an aside, it occurred to me that as I routinely post from the Oratory's newsletter on local happenings that it might be good to let readers know that you can sign up to receive this newsletter directly by emailing to sfds@institute-christ-king.org.

Good News in North County

I just learned today that this Lent, the parish church of St. Angela Merici in Florissant has added a daily Mass at 6:30am (M-F) in the Extraordinary Form. Congratulations to Father Keller (pictured above celebrating the elusive ad orientem Ordinary Form Mass at the Cathedral in 2007) for a great initiative to further integrate the Extraordinary Form into the life of the Catholic parish, as envisioned by Pope Benedict's motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.

Sacrilege That Could Easily Be Prevented

Your Government is Here to Help You!

Just some news items to brighten your day...

Homeland chief: Domestic extremism is top concern


WASHINGTON (AP) - Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says terrorists who are U.S. citizens or live in the country legally and plot against the U.S. are just as big of a concern as international terrorists.

She says officials need to drill down and analyze the factors that make a young person, raised in the U.S., migrate to extremist beliefs and actions.

And here is some summary of the Stalinist takeover of healthcare, part 2, from

Boehner: New Obama Plan Doubles Down on Failure, Puts Summit in Peril...
SWALLOW: White House Warns Republicans: We'll Pass It With 51 VOTES...
'Increase in Fees on Brand Name Pharmaceuticals'...
Broaden 'Tax Base for High-Income Taxpayers'...
Orders 'Comprehensive Database' On Health Claims...
FORCED: 'Raises percent of income assessment that individuals pay if they choose not to become insured'...
BACKDOOR FIX: Healthcare 'Funds will be transferred to the Social Security Trust' if necessary...
White House Endorses Sen. Landrieu's 'Louisiana Purchase'...


If the Stalinists were clever enough, they would remove the funding for abortion and the USCCB would fall in line and support the bill, thus ensuring passage.


And in case you still somehow believe in global warming...

Of course, cap and tax will still pass Congress.

19 February 2010

It's Worse Than I Thought

Thanks to dulac90 for pointing that out.

From the Dominican Sisters of Mary

I received a nice note today from the Dominican Sisters of Mary, the order covered by Lisa Ling on the Oprah Show, thanking me for linking to the story and providing some additional insight into why they agreed to do the piece. Mother Assumpta acknowledges the inherent risk to submitting to an edited piece, but in the end it was the right call.
The file is saved in jpg format, and can be read by clicking on the image below to enlarge.

Another Story of an Isolated Incident that Has Nothing to Do with the Overall Quality of Public Education

First question, why do students need school-issued laptops? Second question, if they need laptops, why are they internet connected? Third question, if they are internet connected, why are they allowed to leave the school unsupervised? Fourth question, did you watch Shaun White win the halfpipe?

(SLC Note: I was going to just post this link, but I gave into temptation and have added some emphases and comments. Mea culpa!)

Student claims school spied on him via computer webcam
By Dan Hardy and Bonnie L. Cook

A Lower Merion family has set off a furor among students, parents, and civil liberties groups by alleging that Harriton High School officials used a webcam on a school-issued laptop to spy on their 15-year-old son at home.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court, the family said the school's assistant principal had confronted their son, told him he had "engaged in improper behavior in [his] home, and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in [his] personal laptop issued by the school district."

The suit contends the Lower Merion School District, one of the most prosperous and highest-achieving in the state (a veritable John Burroughs of excellence), had the ability to turn on students' webcams and illegally invade their privacy (but would never abuse this awesome power).


The district's Apple MacBook laptops have a built-in webcam with a "security feature" (always security the reason for totalitarian tactics) that can snap a picture of the operator and the screen if the computer is reported lost or stolen, Young said.

But he said "the district would never utilize that security feature for any other reason." (But...)The district said that the security system was "deactivated" yesterday, and that it would review when the system had been used.

Widener University law professor Stephen Henderson said using a laptop camera for home surveillance would violate wiretap laws, even if done to catch a thief.

A statement on the district Web site said the lawsuit's allegations "are counter to everything that we stand for as a school and a community."

The suit says that in November, assistant principal Lynn Matsko called in sophomore Blake Robbins and told him that he had "engaged in improper behavior in his home," and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam in his school-issued laptop.

Matsko later told Robbins' father, Michael, that the district "could remotely activate the webcam contained in a student's personal laptop . . . at any time it chose and to view and capture whatever images were in front of the webcam" without the knowledge or approval of the laptop's users, the suit says.

It does not say what improper activity Robbins was accused of or what, if any, discipline resulted. Reached at home yesterday, his mother, Holly, said she could not comment on advice of the family's lawyers.
Teenage boys are capable of all kinds of "improper behavior", especially when they are allowed to have personal, internet capable laptop computers in their rooms, where pornography is one click away. I submit to you that this is one very good reason, sufficient in and of itself, not to issue such computers. And there are those who would say that I should applaud the school for spying on these teenage boys to catch them in the act of certain types of "improper behavior". To these people I would simply point out that the state is not the parent of this child, and does the job rather badly, as it has no authority to perform the task. As in, "Here, Johnny, hold this bag of pot and my lighter for me at your house, but don't smoke it." I mean, this is a total joke, is it not? Yet the corruption of our children is not only tolerated by the school but encouraged in the best passive-aggressive tradition. Do what you want, but don't ever get caught.

Furthermore, let's not assume what the "improper behavior" was. These days, the school spies might object to an incandescent bulb in Johnny's room, or maybe he didn't recycle, or maybe he was caught praying within 25 feet of a government-issued computer. But I digress.


Fueled with state grants, the Lower Merion district issued laptops to all 2,300 high school students (for those keeping score at home that would be from ages 14 to 18), starting last school year at Harriton and later at Lower Merion High, to promote more "engaged and active learning and enhanced student achievement," Superintendent Christopher W. McGinley said in a statement.

McGinley and Lower Merion School Board President David Ebby did not respond to requests for comment.

Families in the 6,900-student district reacted with shock. Parent Candace Chacona said she was "flabbergasted" by the allegations.

"My first thought was that my daughter has her computer open almost around the clock in her bedroom. Has she been spied on?"
(A good thought, but I think that ought to be thought #2. For #1, I would say, "Hey, does my daughter need to have her computer open almost around the clock in her bedroom?")


[A school official] added: "People ask you all the time, 'Can you do this? Can you do this?' . . . But you have to be conscious of students' rights. I would not have walked into that swamp. . . . You want kids to use the technology. You want them to feel safe, to feel trusted." (So you can spy on them more easily.)

The laptop initiative, she said, is "a wonderful program. There were kids in some of the poorer areas that had none of the resources that the other students had. That was what the initiative was for - to give kids a chance."
(Poor kids should have access to porn just like the rich ones!)

In a published policy statement, the district warns that laptop users "should not expect that files stored on district resources will be private," and says the network administrator "may review files and communication to . . . ensure that students are using the system responsibly." (Huh? Doesn't that statement contradict the security mantra uttered by every school official in this story?)

18 February 2010

What Can I Do for Lent to Improve My Spiritual Life?

Good question. One idea:

St. Francis de Sales Oratory

Every Friday during Lent:

Confessions 5:45 – 6:20 pm

6:30 pm low Mass (Votive Masses):

- Friday after Ash Wednesday “The Holy Crown of Thorns of Our Lord Jesus Christ”

- Friday after the First Sunday of Lent “The Holy Lance and Nails of Our Lord Jesus Christ;

- Friday after the Second Sunday of Lent “The Holy Shroud of Our Lord Jesus Christ”;

- Friday after the Third Sunday of Lent “The Five Holy Wounds of Our Lord Jesus Christ”;

- Friday after the Fourth Sunday of Lent “The Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ”

Stations of the Cross

Veneration of the relic of the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Excerpt from the latest Oratory newsletter, with information on the indulgence for stations of the cross:

This Newsletter comes to you at the beginning of Lent with our sincere best wishes. We priests together with Abbe Alex Barga, the oblate and sacristan, and Sister Marie of the Love of God, assure you of our prayers for you and your families. We hope that we all will receive many special graces in participating in this year’s holy season of Lent by joining Our Lord more sincerely in His work of redemption. This continuous work of salvation is made effective above all in the sacred liturgy, the re-enactment of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This week we want to inform you about special liturgical celebrations on all Fridays of Lent. We invite all faithful to come as many Fridays as you can to renew and deepen your spiritual life through these grace-filled celebrations, especially the Stations of the Cross. A plenary indulgence is offered each time you participate in this pious exercise according to the Enchiridion of Indulgences on 29 June 1968 and regulated by the following norms:

-The pious exercise must be made before stations of the Way of the Cross legitimately erected.

-For the erection of the Way of the Cross fourteen crosses are required, to which it is customary to add fourteen pictures or images, which represent the stations of Jerusalem.

-According to the more common practice, the pious exercise consists of fourteen pious readings, to which some vocal prayers are added. However, nothing more is required than a pious meditation on the Passion and Death of the Lord, which need not be a particular consideration of the individual mysteries of the stations.

-A movement from one station to the next is required.

All Your Church Are Belong to Us: Zmirak on the Traditionalist Response to the 40 Year Liturgical Desolation

"I don't know a single Traditionalist who wouldn't prefer the old Mass, facing the altar, said in English, to the Novus Ordo chanted in Latin facing the people."

I just have to post this very insightful piece, whole and entire, from InsideCatholic.com. The author, Catholic writer John Zmirak, posts a response to a recent kerfuffle involving Mark Shea and the various subcategorical identifiers Catholics apply to themselves and others.

While I don't agree with everything in this article, it is certainly a great response to those "mainstream" Catholics who take self-identified "traditionalists" to task over issues they don't get or want to get. Read on.

All Your Church Are Belong to Us

by John Zmirak

"Why do you people care so much about externals?" my non-Trad friends sometimes ask me. And they deserve an answer. A few weeks back, my delightfully contentious colleague here, Mark Shea, waded into the conflict between those who describe themselves simply as "orthodox" Catholics, and those who consider themselves "traditionalists." (Just to save space in the comments box, I mean by this term people who favor the traditional liturgy -- not those who associate with organizations under ecclesiastical suspension.)This line has begun to blur more and more in the wake of Pope Benedict XVI's Summorum Pontificum, which we Trads greeted as a kind of Emancipation Proclamation -- even as many of our bishops answered it with liturgical Jim Crow.

Still, the division is palpable. It was lying right there on the table, for any who cared to palpate it, last week when I went to dinner with a Trad-minded colleague and a visiting author who'd come to speak at our college on G. K. Chesterton. (The presentation was riveting, and I highly recommend Dale Ahlquist's talks and books.) Like the good Mr. Shea, our speaker is a convert, and he shared with Mark a puzzlement at the apparent fixation traditionalists have on restoring former elements of the liturgy and other Catholic practices that are not essential, and resisting innovations that are not inherently evil. Having come from churches that didn't have the Eucharist, and remaining through God's grace flush with gratitude for the sacraments, many converts really don't understand what the rest of us are nattering on about. We who grew up privileged may seem like sulky, spoiled kids. We owe these good people an explanation.

Sometimes they think we just care about aesthetics. One visit to a Sunday Latin Low Mass without music, recited soundlessly into a marble altar, should put that idea to flight. Compared to a Novus Ordo liturgy in the vernacular, and from a purely human point of view, attending Low Mass can be dull. You feel like you are eavesdropping. If you follow along in the missal, you can feel that you are watching a very solemn foreign film without any subtitles, except that you have the screenplay. There's a reason the old rubrics relegated Low Mass to weekdays, and called (though they were rarely answered) for sung Solemn Mass on Sundays and holy days. Pope Pius X wasn't kidding when he asked for parishes to revive Gregorian chant and teach it to the laity. Nor is there any good reason why Latin Mass congregations don't give the responses along with the servers -- except perhaps the fear that this is somehow the first step down a long road that leads to clown Mass. Get over it, fratres.

Other people think that we are a band of Latin scholars, desperate to put our dusty declensions to practical use. Again, one conversation with the congregants at the coffee hour will dash that infant theory against the rocks. Most of us studied Latin, if at all, as part of vocabulary practice for the SATs, and follow the English side of the missal. I don't know a single Traditionalist who wouldn't prefer the old Mass, facing the altar, said in English, to the Novus Ordo chanted in Latin facing the people. While the universal language of the Church is still to be revered for all the reasons that Vatican II prescribed in Sacrosanctum Concilium, it isn't Why We Fight.

Still more people think that we cling to the ancient liturgy as a piece of nostalgia for a Church that we vaguely remember, or heard about from our parents, whose schools drummed a stark, simplistic orthodoxy into hordes of dutiful children; whose religious orders and seminaries weren't riddled with rank heresy and extensive networks of secret homosexuals; whose bishops manfully echoed the traditional teachings of centuries without constant goading from Rome; whose buildings and services at least strove for dignity and austerity, even if they sometimes descended into tedium and kitsch.

I'm tempted to say at this point: That's right. That's exactly what we want. Or at least what we'd settle for. What faithful Catholic wouldn't, if he could right now, wave a magic wand and swap the American church of 2010 for that of 1940 -- with all its acknowledged abuses and hidden worldliness? I'll take the blustering Cardinal Spellman over the scheming Archbishop Weakland any day.

But, of course, things never work like that. You can't bring back the Habsburgs by hanging their banners in your apartment (trust me, I've tried), and we cannot undo the catastrophic "renewal" launched in the name of the Second Vatican Council (often in plain defiance of its documents) by clicking our heels and reciting, "There's no place like Rome" -- even in ecclesiastical Latin. Some confrontation between the Church and late Western modernity was inevitable, and if it hadn't happened at the Council, it would have occurred some other way. The Eastern churches didn't vandalize their liturgy; have they been spared the ravages of secularization? Not according to my Greek Orthodox friends, who show up for the last ten minutes of liturgy each week to pick up blessed bread and join their friends for baklava and gossip. The liturgy is miraculous, but it doesn't work like magic: Rev. Teilhard de Chardin had said the Tridentine Mass for decades even as he invented Catholic Scientology; conversely, his sometime housemate at New York’s St. Ignatius Loyola, the holy Rev. John Hardon, obediently switched missals with every tinkering that came to him from the bishops.

Of course, there's something to be said for a liturgy whose very nature resists and defeats abuses. The Ordinary Form can be extraordinarily reverent when said by a holy priest. I've been to such liturgies hundreds of times, and I'm grateful for every one. On the other hand, the new liturgy, with all its Build-a-Bear options, is terribly easy to abuse. The old Mass reminds me of what they used to say about the Catholic Church and the U.S. Navy: "It's a machine built by geniuses so it can be operated safely by idiots." The old liturgy was crafted by saints, and can be said by schlubs without risk of sacrilege. The new rite was patched together by bureaucrats, and should only be safely celebrated by the saintly.

There are plenty of theological arguments by men more learned than I -- such as Michael Davies and, er, the current pope -- for the superiority of various elements in the traditional liturgy, such as the priest facing the altar instead of the audience. (I use that word advisedly, given the theatrical quality that took over so many parishes since the 1970s.) There are serious objections to many of the changes made in the prayers of the Novus Ordo -- and they were made by the man who used to hold the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's job at the Vatican, Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, who presented them to Pope Paul VI, begging him not to issue the Novus Ordo. (Imagine Cardinal Ratzinger begging Pope John Paul II not to impose altar girls. Who knows -- maybe he did!) Although I recommend reading these arguments, I won't rehearse them here, since all of them are prudential. Adopting Lutheran or Anglican language in the Mass probably didn't cause the current crisis of belief in the Real Presence, and cutting such language by eliminating all but the First Eucharistic Prayer might not do much to resolve it. (Still, it's worth a try!)

So what is the practical motivation that drives us Trads to schlep to distant or dangerous parishes, to irritate our spouses and incommode our pastors, to detach from local churches our grandparents scrimped to build? Why insist on external things, like kneeling for communion on the tongue, male altar servers, and the priest facing the altar? None of these, I'll admit for the 5,000th time, is essential for sacramental validity or credal orthodoxy; isn't being a stickler on such issues a wee bit pharisaical, even prissy? (I have encountered the odd Trad activist with an unnatural attachment to silk and lace -- pastors wearily call them "daughters of Trent" -- but they aren't the norm. Weary fathers of six or seven pack most Latin Mass pews.)

Here's what we Trads have realized, that the merely orthodox haven’t: Inessential things have power, which is why we bother with them in the first place. In every revolution, the first thing you change is the flag. Once that has been replaced, in the public mind all bets are off -- which is why the Commies and Nazis filled every available space with their Satanic banners. Imagine, for a moment, that a newly elected president replaced the Stars and Stripes with the Confederate battle flag. Or that he replaced our 50 stars with the flag of Mexico. Let's say he got away with doing this, and wasn't carried off by the Secret Service to an "undisclosed location." What would that signify for his administration? If people accepted the change, what else would they be likely to accept?

It's no accident that the incessant tinkerings with the liturgy came at the same time as the chaos surrounding the Church's teaching on birth control. As Anne Roche Muggeridge pointed out in her indispensable history The Desolate City, the Church's position on contraception was "under consideration" for almost a decade -- which led pastors to tell troubled couples that they could follow their consciences. If the Church could change the Mass, ordinary Catholics concluded, the nuances of marital theology were surely up for grabs. No wonder that when Paul VI reluctantly issued Humanae Vitae, people felt betrayed. (It didn't help when the Vatican refused to back a cardinal who tried to enforce the document, which made it seem like the pope was winking.)

The perception that the Church was in a constant state of doctrinal flux was confirmed by the reality that her most central, sacred mystery was being monkeyed with -- almost every year. I remember being in grammar school when they told us, "The pope wants us to receive Communion in the hand now." (He didn't; it was an abuse that was forced on the Vatican through relentless disobedience until it became a local norm, but never mind.) Then, a few years later, "The pope wants us to stand for Communion." A few more grades, and we heard, "The pope wants us to go to Confession face to face." What had seemed a solid bulwark of formality and seriousness was suddenly shifting with every year's hemlines -- which is precisely what the heretics conspiring to change the Church's teaching had in mind. That is why they pushed for these futile, pastorally destructive changes of "inessentials" -- as a way of beating down resistance to changing essentials. And, in a worldly sense, they almost succeeded.

The campaign of dissenting priests, nuns, and (let's be honest) bishops culminated, in America, with the Call to Action Conference, which its leading advocate John Francis Cardinal Dearden described in 1977 as "an assembly of the American Catholic community ." This gathering of 2,400 radical Catholic activists was composed of "people deeply involved with the life of the institutional Church and appointed by their bishops" (emphasis added). The Conference approved "progressive resolutions, ones calling for, among other things, the ordination of women and married men, female altar servers, and the right and responsibility of married couples to form their own consciences on the issue of artificial birth control." This is the mess made by the bishops appointed by the author of Humanae Vitae, which his rightly beloved successor John Paul II spent much of his pontificate trying to clean up. What we Trads feel compelled to point out is that he couldn't quite finish the job, and that the deformations of the Roman liturgy enacted by (you guessed it) appointees of Paul VI helped enable all these doctrinal abuses. They changed the flag.

At this point in my discussion of the gravest theological issues that threatened the faith of Catholics in this country, I wish to call your attention to a stupid YouTube video, which gave this essay its willfully illiterate title: "All Your Base Are Belong to Us."

For those of you too young to have experienced the incessant assault upon the sacred that was the liturgical "reform," or grateful converts who don't understand all the fuss, I beg of you: Please watch this video (SLC Note: there some images in this video that some may find objectionable). In fact, stop reading and watch the video first, then come back to finish this essay. I can wait.

The film takes the Pidgin English from a cheesy Japanese computer game and places it everywhere: on street signs, in Budweiser ads, on cigarette packs. At first, the effect is funny, and you wonder about the geeks who spent their time doing all this Photoshop. But keep watching. Savor the effect as the same mindless, meaningless slogan is plastered everywhere, on every blessed thing. Pretty quickly, it starts to be creepy. By the end, you might feel like Japanese anime aliens have in fact taken over. You can see their fingerprints everywhere . . .

That is how it felt to be young and Catholic in the 1970s. Every sacred thing had to be changed, every old thing replaced with a new one, every complicated beauty plastered over by the cheap and the easy. The message was almost subliminal, but by that means all the more powerful: All Your Church Are Belong to Us.

And by changing back the flag, by taking back our Mass, we are saying: Go back to Hell. Our Church belongs to Christ.

John Zmirak is the author, most recently, of the graphic novel The Grand Inquisitor and is Writer-in-Residence at Thomas More College in New Hampshire. He writes weekly for InsideCatholic.com.

17 February 2010

Pope John Paul II's Beatification Stalled?

From Zenit:

Is John Paul II's Beatification Process Stalled?

Former Saints' Causes Prefect Clarifies Controversies

By Carmen Elena Villa

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 16, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Several commentaries were sparked by revelations in a recently publicized book by the postulator of John Paul II's cause for canonization, calling into question the character of the former Pope.

To clarify these controversies, ZENIT spoke with the retired prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, who attended the launching of the Italian-language book, "Why He Is a Saint: The True John Paul II Explained by the Postulator of the Cause of Beatification" (Rizzoli Publications).

In the book, the postulator, Polish Monsignor Slawomir Oder, together with journalist Saverio Gaeta, director of the magazine Famiglia Cristiana, compile several testimonies that reveal details about Karol Wojtyla's life.

The book is divided into three chapters: "The Man," which reflects his most human features; "The Pope," which highlights the most important moments of his pontificate; and "The Mystic," which describes his intense spiritual life and his love for the Eucharist and the Virgin Mary.

The commentaries written by various media sources concentrated for the most part on three topics.

The first is Wojtyla's alleged self-scourging. The second is a letter written in 1994, in which the Pontiff stated that he might resign in case of an "incurable illness" or of an impediment to "exercise (sufficiently) the functions of the Petrine ministry." The third discussion revolved around an open letter addressed to Ali Agca, the man who attempted to assassinate the Holy Father in 1981.


In one of the last pages of the book there is a paragraph that indicates, according to some witnesses consulted by the postulator, that Pope John Paul II "scourged himself." However, this continues to be hypothetical, given that to date no one has actually said that they saw this take place.

The book states that "in his wardrobe, among his soutanes, he had hanging a particular belt for trousers that he used as a whip, and which he would ensure was always taken to Castel Gandolfo."

The author gave no further details; this is the sole description on this controversial topic in the 192 pages of the book.

Some journalists have speculated that John Paul II's alleged scourging "might hold up the process of beatification." Others have asserted that the Pope's rigorous penances were the consequence of "mental imbalance."

However, Cardinal Saraiva Martins explained to ZENIT that flagellation "is no more than the most beautiful expression of the Christian spirit, of the faith of the person who wants to be like Christ, who was scourged."

ZENIT asked if this type of practice is necessary to attain sanctity. The cardinal responded that a saint should "scourge himself spiritually," that is, always have a spirit of penance and sacrifice, and the capacity of offering up physical and spiritual pain.

He explained: "Clearly sanctity implies great heroism in life, it implies much self-denial, it implies extraordinary willpower to be able to imitate Christ.

"It implies great courage. It calls for spiritual preparation and giving up many things, to live life according to the principles of the Gospel."

In the case of saints who have subjected themselves voluntarily to rigorous penance, these practices had nothing to do with psychological imbalance, the prelate added.

He said: "The saints are in the first place very normal persons. If this wasn't so they wouldn't be able to be saints.

"There are many saints who did penance and saw this as a way to bring their body under control; it has nothing to do with psychology."


In one of the subtitles of the chapter on "The Pope," Monsignor Oder said, "There is no place in the Church for a Pope Emeritus." In this part of the book he recounted that John Paul II said that if he left the pontificate it would only be by the will of God.

The book quotes the Pontiff as saying: "I don't want to be the one who puts an end to this task. The Lord has brought me up to here. I will let him be the one who judges or decides when this service must end."

The volume includes a previously unpublished letter written by John Paul II in 1994, when he was about to celebrate his 75th birthday, the age in which bishops and cardinals are required to submit their resignation.

In this letter the Holy Father mentioned the possibility of resigning from the office in the case of extreme physical and mental impediments, but always in accordance with the will of God.

On this subject Cardinal Saraiva Martins said that the book does not present "anything new."

It is only a matter of "following Paul VI's dispositions," who said he could not leave his office unless he suffered from an "incurable illness" that physically and psychologically impeded his continuing with this responsibility, the prelate explained. If that were the case, the Pope would have to resign to the position of dean of the College of Cardinals.

Regarding the open letter to Ali Agca, which appears in the book dated Sept. 11, 1981, the cardinal said that in it is written "what all of us already know."

"The Pope forgave him even though he [Agca] did not ask for forgiveness," the prelate said.


Cardinal Saraiva Martins told ZENIT that there is no reason for the recently published book to hold up or speed up the Pontiff's process of beatification, given that last Dec. 19 the Holy See published the decree on the his heroic virtue. From that moment, John Paul II was recognized with the title of venerable.

"When it receives the documentation of a candidate to the altar, the first thing the Congregation for Saints' Causes does is to study the way in which he has lived the Christian virtues," explained the cardinal.

He continued: "Not in an ordinary way, not an ordinary sanctity but sanctity to a heroic degree.

"Heroism is what distinguishes saints from other Christians."

The prelate noted that the only thing lacking for John Paul II to receive the title of saint is proof of a miracle through his intercession that is inexplicable by science.


In any process of beatification, the cardinal affirmed, the work of the postulator should be to compile testimonies and information that confirm the sanctity of the candidate. His opinion does not count in the process; the data is studied exclusively by the congregation.

Knowing that the postulator should be a neutral person, ZENIT asked if it is not imprudent to publish a book titled "Why He Is a Saint," when the candidate to the has not even been beatified?

The former prefect stated that the postulator, on a personal level, "can say what he likes."

He clarified that this book "has nothing to do with the process itself," that is, it will neither advance nor stall it.

Cardinal Saraiva Martins pointed out that the title responds, rather, to the clamor of the people, who from the moment of John Paul II's death took to the streets with posters that said "santo subito," "santo pronto" [now a saint, soon a saint].

Situational Veiling

From time to time I cover the whole veiling issue at this site. If you have read for any length of time, you know that I am a proponent of making more widely known the fact that covering one's head at Mass is still obligatory for women under canon law.

An offshoot topic is the reality many women who do "veil" at the Traditional Mass (Extraordinary Form), do not veil when attending the Novus Ordo (Ordinary Form). Regardless of whether one veils out of tradition, or obligation, or preference, it is undeniable that there seems to be a reluctance to veil at the Ordinary Form. So, I thought to myself, why should this be? Is God God in the EF and not in the OF? Of course not. Is the EF a "real" Mass but the OF isn't? No again. So what are the reasons? Embarrassment? Something else?

Therefore, I have put up a poll on the right of the blog giving some possible explanations for this anomaly. I ask readers to play this straight, and not to comment if 1) you are a man, 2) if you always veil, regardless of form;, or 3) if you never veil at all, regardless of form. As your name is nowhere attached to the poll, please don't be afraid to participate. This is science, science, I say!

Thanks. Please, all readers, feel free to comment regarding the poll in the combox to this post.

Ash Wednesday

Emendemus in melius, quae ignoranter peccavimus: ne subito praeoccupati die mortis, quaeramus spatium poenitentiae, et invenire non possimus.

16 February 2010

Bishop Finn Visits the Institute in Gricigliano

The ICRSP French website has pictures of the visit of His Excellency, the Most Reverend Robert Finn, Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, to Gricigliano to give a seminar to the students there, and to celebrate adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with the Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus Christ Sovereign Priest.

Also up are pictures of the pilgrimage in honor of the Feast of St. Francis de Sales.

Questions My Brother Asks Me

What if the rapture comes and I don't have my phone on me? Will it get left behind?

15 February 2010

The Forty Hours Continue at the Oratory

Remaining schedule:

Confessions 1/2 hour before all Masses

Monday, February 15- 8am Low Mass, followed by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. 12:10pm Low Mass at the Altar of St. Joseph. 6:30pm Solemn High Mass, followed by Reposition of the Blessed Sacrament

Tuesday, February 16- 8am Low Mass, followed by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. 12:10pm Low Mass at the Altar of St. Joseph. 6:30pm Solemn High Mass, followed by Procession of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction.

Finally, Ash Wednesday schedule at the Oratory below:

Wednesday, February 17- Ash Wednesday-Ashes will be distributed before all Masses. 8am; 12:15pm Low Mass; 6:30pm Solemn High Mass

13 February 2010

Make Sure It's the Right One

If someone invites you to St. Francis de Sales for Mass, make sure it's the right one:

St. Francis de Sales Church in Muskegon, Michigan, built 1966

St. Francis de Sales Oratory in St. Louis, Missouri, built 1908

Just sayin'.

South County Traditional Mass Moving to St. Elizabeth of Hungary

The Traditional Latin Mass that has been celebrated at Assumption Parish in Mattese is being permanently moved, effective February 21, 2010, to St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Crestwood.

Note also, the new time: Sundays at 1:30 pm. Directions and contact info at the link.

St. Gemma, Pray for Us!

The Language is English

Regarding those new translations? Well, Monty has a point:

This entry at New Liturgical Movement about the New English Translation for the novus ordo says it well, and I am happy to give it here in full:

New Translations: It's Still English!
by Arlene Oost-Zinner

I'm beginning to wonder exactly what kind of a revolt the USCCB, individual bishops, pastors, liturgy directors and other lay leaders are anticipating when the new translations come out. I've heard talk of instructional CDs, diocesan programs and booklets and educational aids. Pastors and liturgy directors will be told to deploy them when the time comes, and one thing will be for sure: we'll be prepared.

Why are bishops and pastors so worried about the reactions of people in the pews? Are they afraid of a mass exodus like the one that happened in the 1960s? This is hardly the same thing. Or given our litigious culture of political correctness, self esteem, and so-called scandals, are they just afraid?

Do they really think they need to spend massive amounts of money on print materials, software, and training programs in order to get the people in the pews ready for the change? It won't be a new Mass, after all. It will be the same Mass and some of the English words will be changed.

Do they truly believe people are so clueless that they won't understand what is going on? Some may be surprised, it's true. But that's because they haven't been paying attention anyway. They go to Mass every Saturday at 5:00pm and then go home, and do the same thing week after week, year in, year out. Sure they may grumble a little — at first.

But many will be glad for the change. The new translations have more in common with the universal language of the Church, and bring us closer to our heritage. This idea, if any, should go over well in our multicultural society. One strong homily or two should do it.

Maybe I'm not like everyone else, but it is not news to me that the Church is hierarchical by design. Bishops and pastors are supposed to be shepherds. They are supposed to tell us what to do, whether we like it or not. And we are supposed to be sheep. We are supposed to follow directives. Give us the new translations. Bring them on. We'll go along with it.

Do shepherds on remote mountain tops give their flocks instructional booklets and audio tours on how to stay with the group? Are pastors really nothing more than tour guides — paid themselves to make sure their valuable customers wear the right shoes and bring sunscreen and wear hats, but don't give dollars to local beggars, don't drink the water and don't, heaven forbid, contract malaria?

These are just translations. The language is English. Why all the hype? Print the new translations in worship aids if need be (Most people don't even look at these, by the way). In a few weeks or maybe a month or two, people will get used to the change. Their faith has survived worse:

Imagine a scenario where a family shows up at Mass early on a Sunday morning during the season of Pentecost. They've fasted since midnight and put on their Sunday best. They are greeted with the news that they could have had ham and eggs for breakfast, the time of the year is nothing if not ordinary, and the priest faces them to say the Mass over a table with his back to a naked high altar.

Recite the newly translated Mass parts and responses with reverence; treat the people in the pews with dignity. They don't need audio guides and training booklets. They just need to be given some credit.

12 February 2010

Dominican Sisters on Oprah

No, not the title of some new addiction, but I was told by a reader (necessary because I NEVER watch Okrah) that the Dominican Sisters of Mary were the subject of in depth coverage on the Oprah show.

Below is part one from YouTube, which will lead you to subsequent parts. Good coverage, really, considering the secular venue, but I just had to laugh a bit because Oprah's first point about the consecrated life was that there was "no sex"--you know, the be-all and end-all of modern existence from the age of oh, 9? Or is it younger now?

Meatless Friday: A Presidents' Day Quiz

SLC Note: Dear Readers, don't blame me. This is merely intended to stimulate some interest in history from a perspective you don't often see.

History Quiz: American Presidents

by Clyde Wilson

  1. What American President launched a massive invasion of another country that posed no threat, and without a declaration of war?

  2. What President raised a huge army at his own will without the approval of Congress?

  3. What President started a war of choice in violation of every principle of Christian just war teaching?

  4. What President said that he had to violate the Constitution in order to save it?

  5. What President declared the elected legislatures of thirteen States to be "combinations" of criminals that he had to suppress?

  6. What President said he was indifferent to slavery but would use any force necessary to collect taxes?

  7. What President sent combat troops from the battlefield to bombard and occupy New York City?

  8. What President sent the Army to arrest in the middle of the night thousands of private citizens for expressing their opinions? And held them incommunicado in military prisons with total denial of due process of law? And had his soldiers destroy newspaper plants?

  9. What President was the first ruler in the civilized world to make medicine a contraband of war?

  10. What President signed for his cronies special licenses to purchase valuable cotton from an enemy country even though he had forbidden such trade and punished other people for the same practice?

  11. What President refused medical care and food to his own soldiers held by the enemy country?

  12. What President presided over the bombardment and house-by-house destruction of cities and towns that were undefended and not military targets?

  13. What President’s forces deliberately targeted women and children and destroyed their housing, food supply, and private belongings?

  14. What President’s occupying forces engaged in imprisonment, torture, and execution of civilians and seizing them as hostages?

  15. Under what President did the Army have the largest number of criminals, mercenaries, and foreigners?

  16. Who was the first American President to plot the assassination of an opposing head of state?

  17. Who had the least affiliation with Christianity of any American President and blamed God for starting the war over which he presided?

  18. What President voted for and praised a law which forbade black people from settling in his State?

  19. What President said that all black people should be expelled from the United States because they could never be full-fledged citizens?

  20. What President was the first to force citizens to accept as legal money pieces of paper unbacked by gold or silver?

  21. Who was the first President to institute an income tax?

  22. Who was the first President to pile up a national debt too vast to be paid off in a generation?

  23. Who is considered almost universally as the greatest American President, indeed as the greatest American of all times and as a world hero of democracy?

  24. What predecessor is President Obama most often compared to?

    This is a take-home quiz. Please grade yourself.

    From LewRockwell.com

Good Morning! Just Another Isolated Incident that Says Nothing at All about the State of Public Education

Nothing to see here. Move along.

11 February 2010

Worlds Colliding Again

The much beloved George Costanza (for you traditionalists out there, he is a character on a program that used to air on this invention called television-- you know, the box with images and sounds that provides a window seat on your express flight to hell?) once lamented that his friends were causing his worlds "to collide". How? By his friends bringing his fiancee into their intimate circle. You remember, Relationship George would kill Independent George?

Well as a thought experiment, I thought I would try to mix two of my worlds together--Catholicism and political matters-- to provide a new lexicon. Take these examples already in existence in the world of politics:

  • "Birthers"-- those who doubt the Leader's qualifications for presidency based on location of his birth.

  • "Truthers"-- those who doubt the official version of what happened on 9-11.

  • "Teabaggers"-- highly vulgar term for those who support the Tea Party political movement.

Well, what would happen if you brought that kind of labelling into Catholic matters? Consider these helpful labels:

  • "Tonguers"-- those who maintain Holy Communion must be received on the tongue. See related entry "Handers".

  • "Gatherers"-- those who believe it is OK to soil a perfectly good Mass with songs like "Gather Us In", "Table of Plenty", or other such St. Louis Jesuity pablum.

  • "Sanders"-- those who can't stand to limit ruining liturgies to the weekly liturgy committee meeting and feel the need to drain Holy Water Fonts during Lent and fill them with sand.

  • "Tableclothers"-- those who disdain the majestic Baroque chasuble for the polyester monstrosities that flow off the priest's frame like a giant tablecloth. Now beware, though, these people differ from those who prefer the same essential shape chasuble as Tableclothers do, but using actually beautiful materials hearkening back to Gothic tradition. The other important distinction between these two groups is that you can have a constructive conversation with the latter group.

  • "Levi-tes"-- those who think it is in good taste to wear jeans to Mass.

  • "Flippers"-- related to Levi-tes, they believe flip-flops are fancy footwear.

  • "Siries"-- those who believe Cardinal Siri of Genoa was elected Pope at least once.

  • "Smokers"-- subset of Siries, they believe that white smoke issued from the Sistine Chapel when Cardinal Siri was elected.

  • "Stoppers"-- those who make use of the purported last words of Pope John XXIII, "Stop the Council!"

  • "Spiritualists"--those who claim the Spirit of Vatican II (tm) justifies any mortal sin, actual or constructive.

  • "Lacers"-- ironically, the term applies to two different groups-- those who believe that liturgical vestments should be as beautiful as possible, including by the use of lace in certain vestments-- and also to this group's mortal enemies, who are so bothered by the use of lace that it is all they can think about and it literally drives them nuts.

This is just a partial list. Let's hope they can be more useful than the tired stand-bys like Trads, Neo-Trads, Rad-Trads, N.O.ers, Neo-Caths, Sedes, and just plain nutjobs.

If you think of others, feel free to add them in the combox.

Feds Want to Track Cell Phones without Warrant

The Bush Administration pushes the Patriot Act. The Leader's administration proves no different--warrantless tracking of cell phones:

Feds push for tracking cell phones
by Declan McCullagh


Even though police are tapping into the locations of mobile phones thousands of times a year, the legal ground rules remain unclear, and federal privacy laws written a generation ago are ambiguous at best. On Friday, the first federal appeals court to consider the topic will hear oral arguments (PDF) in a case that could establish new standards for locating wireless devices.

In that case, the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their--or at least their cell phones'--whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that "a customer's Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records" that show where a mobile device placed and received calls.

Those claims have alarmed the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, which have opposed the Justice Department's request and plan to tell the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia that Americans' privacy deserves more protection and judicial oversight than what the administration has proposed.

"This is a critical question for privacy in the 21st century," says Kevin Bankston, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who will be arguing on Friday. "If the courts do side with the government, that means that everywhere we go, in the real world and online, will be an open book to the government unprotected by the Fourth Amendment."

Not long ago, the concept of tracking cell phones would have been the stuff of spy movies. In 1998's "Enemy of the State," Gene Hackman warned that the National Security Agency has "been in bed with the entire telecommunications industry since the '40s--they've infected everything." After a decade of appearances in "24" and "Live Free or Die Hard," location-tracking has become such a trope that it was satirized in a scene with Seth Rogen from "Pineapple Express" (2008).

Once a Hollywood plot, now 'commonplace'

Whether state and federal police have been paying attention to Hollywood, or whether it was the other way around, cell phone tracking has become a regular feature in criminal investigations. It comes in two forms: police obtaining retrospective data kept by mobile providers for their own billing purposes that may not be very detailed, or prospective data that reveals the minute-by-minute location of a handset or mobile device.

Obtaining location details is now "commonplace," says Al Gidari, a partner in the Seattle offices of Perkins Coie who represents wireless carriers. "It's in every pen register order these days."

Gidari says that the Third Circuit case could have a significant impact on police investigations within the court's jurisdiction, namely Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania; it could be persuasive beyond those states. But, he cautions, "if the privacy groups win, the case won't be over. It will certainly be appealed."

CNET was the first to report on prospective tracking in a 2005 news article. In a subsequent Arizona case, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration tracked a tractor trailer with a drug shipment through a GPS-equipped Nextel phone owned by the suspect. Texas DEA agents have used cell site information in real time to locate a Chrysler 300M driving from Rio Grande City to a ranch about 50 miles away. Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile logs showing the location of mobile phones at the time calls were placed became evidence in a Los Angeles murder trial.

And a mobile phone's fleeting connection with a remote cell tower operated by Edge Wireless is what led searchers to the family of the late James Kim, a CNET employee who died in the Oregon wilderness in 2006 after leaving a snowbound car to seek help.

The way tracking works is simple: mobile phones are miniature radio transmitters and receivers. A cellular tower knows the general direction of a mobile phone (many cell sites have three antennas pointing in different directions), and if the phone is talking to multiple towers, triangulation yields a rough location fix. With this method, accuracy depends in part on the density of cell sites.

The Federal Communications Commission's "Enhanced 911" (E911) requirements allowed rough estimates to be transformed into precise coordinates. Wireless carriers using CDMA networks, such as Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel, tend to use embedded GPS technology to fulfill E911 requirements. AT&T and T-Mobile comply with E911 regulations using network-based technology that computes a phone's location using signal analysis and triangulation between towers.

T-Mobile, for instance, uses a GSM technology called Uplink Time Difference of Arrival, or U-TDOA, which calculates a position based on precisely how long it takes signals to reach towers. A company called TruePosition, which provides U-TDOA services to T-Mobile, boasts of "accuracy to under 50 meters" that's available "for start-of-call, midcall, or when idle" as soon as the call begins.

A 2008 court order to T-Mobile in a criminal investigation of a marriage fraud scheme, which was originally sealed and later made public, says: "T-Mobile shall disclose at such intervals and times as directed by (the Department of Homeland Security), latitude and longitude data that establishes the approximate positions of the Subject Wireless Telephone, by unobtrusively initiating a signal on its network that will enable it to determine the locations of the Subject Wireless Telephone."

'No reasonable expectation of privacy'

In the case that's before the Third Circuit on Friday, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, initially said it needed historical (meaning stored, not future) phone location information because a set of suspects "use their wireless telephones to arrange meetings and transactions in furtherance of their drug trafficking activities."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Lenihan in Pennsylvania denied the Justice Department's attempt to obtain stored location data without a search warrant; prosecutors had invoked a different legal procedure. Lenihan's ruling, in effect, would require police to obtain a search warrant based on probable cause--a more privacy-protective standard.

Lenihan's opinion (PDF)--which, in an unusual show of solidarity, was signed by four other magistrate judges--noted that location information can reveal sensitive information such as health treatments, financial difficulties, marital counseling, and extra-marital affairs.

In its appeal to the Third Circuit, the Justice Department claims that Lenihan's opinion "contains, and relies upon, numerous errors" and should be overruled. In addition to a search warrant not being necessary, prosecutors said, because location "records provide only a very general indication of a user's whereabouts at certain times in the past, the requested cell-site records do not implicate a Fourth Amendment privacy interest."

The Obama administration is not alone in making this argument. U.S. District Judge William Pauley, a Clinton appointee in New York, wrote in a 2009 opinion that a defendant in a drug trafficking case, Jose Navas, "did not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the cell phone" location. That's because Navas only used the cell phone "on public thoroughfares en route from California to New York" and "if Navas intended to keep the cell phone's location private, he simply could have turned it off."

(Most cases have involved the ground rules for tracking cell phone users prospectively, and judges have disagreed over what legal rules apply. Only a minority has sided with the Justice Department, however.)

Cellular providers tend not to retain moment-by-moment logs of when each mobile device contacts the tower, in part because there's no business reason to store the data, and in part because the storage costs would be prohibitive. They do, however, keep records of what tower is in use when a call is initiated or answered--and those records are generally stored for six months to a year, depending on the company.

Verizon Wireless keeps "phone records including cell site location for 12 months," Drew Arena, Verizon's vice president and associate general counsel for law enforcement compliance, said at a federal task force meeting in Washington, D.C. last week. Arena said the company keeps "phone bills without cell site location for seven years," and stores SMS text messages for only a very brief time.

Gidari, the Seattle attorney, said that wireless carriers have recently extended how long they store this information. "Prior to a year or two ago when location-based services became more common, if it were 30 days it would be surprising," he said.

The ACLU, EFF, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and University of San Francisco law professor Susan Freiwald argue that the wording of the federal privacy law in question allows judges to require the level of proof required for a search warrant "before authorizing the disclosure of particularly novel or invasive types of information." In addition, they say, Americans do not "knowingly expose their location information and thereby surrender Fourth Amendment protection whenever they turn on or use their cell phones."

"The biggest issue at stake is whether or not courts are going to accept the government's minimal view of what is protected by the Fourth Amendment," says EFF's Bankston. "The government is arguing that based on precedents from the 1970s, any record held by a third party about us, no matter how invasively collected, is not protected by the Fourth Amendment."