Friday, 27 November 2015

A Short Note on Aristotelianism

Several people have in some way suggested to me that my problem with the cosmological arguments are easily resolved if I just accepted Aristotelianism, and after all, I should have if I was a Catholic at all to begin with. To the first point I would say, sure, cosmological arguments can be sound if the principles of Aristotelian metaphysics are accepted, but I have no good reason to think them all true. To the second, I disagree: despite comments from Popes defending the importance of Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy in Catholic theology, nobody could possibly claim with intelligence that such comments are de fide. So their rejection is not heresy (cf. CIC. c.751). It is also manifest that such comments were not infallible acts of the papal magisterium, so canon 750 does not apply. What does seem to come into play is canon 752, which stipulates religious submission for papal exercises of the authentic magisterium (also those of the college of bishops, and c. 753 makes similar provisions for a bishop or collection thereof as such). But I have previously had such religious submission. This is giving the rather generous assumption that every time a Pope puts pen to paper in a teaching document, they are exercising this magisterium authentically.

I view Aristotle's metaphysics as one way of making a formalised view out of intuitions about the world. I have drawn the analogy in the past between his natural philosophy and metaphysics, and people have been quick to point out that they are distinct fields; that may be, but Aristotle employs the same approach to both, it is simply harder to falsify metaphysics. Once Galileo has the idea of putting to experiment Aristotle's doctrine that heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones (a pretty common sense notion) it becomes clear that it is false. Anybody can do the experiment. However something more philosophical such as Aristotle's direct realism is still defended by a tiny minority, even though it is pretty standard to refer to it as naive realism, owing precisely to its naivete.

As I think I have made sufficiently clear, I reject basing any justification of knowledge on intuition. Our intuitions about how the world works, as evidenced by both psychology and physics, are absolutely terrible. Humans see agency, meaning and patterns where there is none, we anthropomorphisise to no end, have a hard time believing things we strongly want to believe are false, are absolutely terrible with probabilities ... I could go on for a long time more with our rational defects and biases. Even if we lacked those, our brains think in such a mundane way that our only hope to understanding how the world fundamentally is physically is to fall back on mathematics (which proceeds by strict logic) and endure physicist's perpetual polite apologies for not being able to put four dimensions on a graph. Or not showing all of Hilbert space. I do not like to play the quantum weirdness card, but if there is one thing it illustrates is just how far reality is from our intuitions. Things do not work as we think they do. Things are not obvious. So principles which seem common sense and obvious cannot be justified on those grounds.

I reject Aristotelian metaphysics because its basis is intuition and not evidence. This is not a rejection of logic: if anybody can show that a metaphysical principle follows logically from a principle of logic, then it is logically true and I will believe it. But Aristotelian metaphysics is not an enterprise of pure logical argumentation, it smuggles in human intuitions all the time.

This might seem like a strawman to someone who finds Aristotle unituitive so I will offer an example of what I consider a major flaw with Aristotle's conception of the world, one which affects his cosmology, his physics and his metaphysics: Aristotle's view is teleological. Everything is about the endgame. Why do things fall? Because they want to get to the centre of the earth. Why do planets  move in circles? They want to. And metaphysically, what is one of the four causes of things? What they are wanted to do, or its final cause. How do we know this is true? We do not. We just normally think of things in terms of it's purpose, so Aristotle made it into its own metaphysical principle.

If you think the world has final causes, prove it. If you think substance theory is the best way to think of the universe and its constituents, good for you, but don't expect me to believe arm-chair pontifications about them without demonstration. I do not even think Aristotle is necessarily wrong, but nothing is true because of Aristotle's fiat.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Cosmological Argument: Doubts, Difficulties and My Thoughts

About three years ago I became a theist because I found the cosmological argument irresistibly compelling at a rational level. I did not become affiliated with any religion straight away, although I became a Christian not too long after. Today I no longer believe the cosmological argument is sound or can be known to be sound. Let me emphasise this point because it has two parts: (1) I do not find any version of the cosmological argument known to me to be rationally compelling and (2) I do not believe that such an argument can be formulated such that the conclusion (that God exists) is known with certainty.

Where that places my Christianity or theism more broadly is unclear to me. Some people contend that it should remain entirely unaffected because I have a personal relationship with God which transcends rationality. However, relationships seem to me to be based on elements of reason and other elements which go beyond reason. This can be illustrated with the usual analogy used for arguing faith as a virtue: if there seems to be evidence that my spouse is cheating on me, I give her the benefit of the doubt because of how much faith I have in her. But what is the basis of this faith? It is the experience of my spouse in the past and from there, the knowledge of her character. It is a faith built on evidence.

Belief in God, I would say, is much more like online dating without the benefit of cameras or telephones. Certainly, over the course of an online friendship, two people would get to know each other and some degree of trust could establish itself. In the back of their mind, however, is always the knowledge that in the past these people have turned out to be fake, always the knowledge that there exist master deceivers online in these forums. So faith is possible but it seems to lack certainty. Is this a problem? Perhaps not. Few things in life are certain. For me, nonetheless, the cosmological argument had given me a scrap of the closest thing to certainty I could have outside of the truths of mathematics and those most likely truths gleaned from the natural world. So for the argument to be unsound is tantamount to having the online dating website put a marker on the beloved's profile marking it as "Doubtfully Genuine." Any semblance of a relationship is viewed with suspicion and as perhaps the cunning ploy of a deceiver.

Let me enumerate the reasons that I do not think that the known cosmological arguments are sound. First of all, I have never been Aristotelian in my metaphysics (I have viewed with much more agreement the views of Locke and on occasion Hume and Kant, though I have no established metaphysics within which I operate) which means that I invariably find the arguments of St Thomas Aquinas to need reformulation, if only linguistic and cosmetic at points. Aristotle's metaphysics suffers from the same problem, in my opinion, which besets his natural philosophy: despite beginning with some observation, the addition of wildly speculative elements and, more importantly, ontologically realising his linguistic constructions renders a metaphysics which seems common sense but lacks critical grappling with real metaphysical problems. Aristotle's defenders continually accuse his critics (at least in my non-professional experience) of rejecting first principles which should be assumed as axiomatic, and yet this label given to common sense principles does not allow for their critical analysis. It is not the job of philosophy to make common sense reputable, but rather to seek for actual truth, and if common sense is misleading or false, then all the worse for common sense.

Secondly, to his first and second ways I say that I am entirely comfortable with the possibility of an "actual infinite," and so deny that there needs to be some first mover or first efficient cause. I can see why a naive view of infinities leads to paradoxes but in my studies of mathematics I have found no logical contradictions when infinity is rigorously defined; this is by no means to say that the conclusions of operating with infinities are common sense. However, un-intuitive should not be taken to mean false lest one makes of one's common sense an idol.

Thirdly, when it comes to arguments from contingency (as Aquinas' third way is), claims are made which are entirely unverified and implicitly deny, again, the possibility of an actual infinite. How does one know what sort of entity produces a contingent event? Clearly we know from experience that contingent events are produced by other contingent events. Why is it not possible for this to have gone on eternally in the past? More importantly, arguments from contingency are liable to the fallacy of composition which asserts that because the members of some whole have a property, then the whole must have it. This is sometimes true (if all the parts of a car are red, then the whole car is red) but it is not necessarily true (carbon atoms do not have the same properties as carbon allotropes like diamonds or graphite, or diamond and graphite would be identical). I see of no way of inferring that the universe is contingent based on its parts, particularly since:

Fourthly, even if a necessary agent was somewhere necessary in a sequence of contingent events, there is no reason to think that this agent is personal. It is quite conceivable that laws of nature are metaphysically necessary and so can produce contingent events. Why is the world the way it is? We explain everything in it by natural laws, so it is plausible that it can be explained as a whole by natural laws (though here I am asserting only possibility and plausibility). It is sometimes objected that natural laws only explain how to go from one state of affairs to another, not how the whole chain started, to which I reply with two points:

Fifthly, that the only natural laws we know are the ones that take one existing state of affairs to another by some means and mechanism, but this does not imply that these are the only natural laws that exist. This is particularly important because when cosmological arguments make claims about the beginning of all time-space and further claim that such an event would be impossible without a personal agent, they are implicitly are claiming knowledge about atemporal causation. What caused the Big Bang, they ask? But such a question requires a different type of causation to the one we are familiar with in day-to-day life because our daily notions of causality are that some event A which precedes B in time can be the cause of B. Yet there is no possible event of this type preceding the beginning of time, and so we must remain entirely agnostic as to what sort of causality is required. If the Big Bang was really the absolute beginning of all of time and space, then when it is said that it had a cause we are importing an entirely foreign notion to the event. When an argument like the Kalam says that everything that begins to exist has a cause for its existence, it makes a claim bigger than the one we have experience of: that everything that begins to exist within time has a cause preceding it in time for its existence. So to that premise I simply say: I cannot know.

Sixthly, the rather major point that I am an instrumentalist and so I do not believe that the scientific theory of the Big Bang can be thought to have metaphysical implications. If you want to know more about the point of view known as "scientific anti-realism", have a look at the article on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. This means that in arguments like the Kalam where the universe is said to have a beginning, that premise must be proved by non-scientific means. If I was convinced of scientific realism, however, or even realism with respect to certain tenets, then I would furthermore believe two final points about quantum mechanics:

Seventhly, that the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics (or in other words, its under-determinism) leads to profound implications for the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) which underlies most if not all cosmological arguments. Where previously it was held to be certain that, if one measured something in a laboratory then it could in principle be explained uniquely by a preceding event, set of events or series of conditions, this need no longer be held. Every known result of quantum mechanics is consistent with the idea that an identical experiment can have different outcomes to which the only explanation is that the different outcomes were all possible. Because of Bell's theorem and its violation, I think a substantial case can be made that this result of quantum mechanics can be known to be metaphysically true.

Eightly, the interpretation of quantum mechanics which I favour as satisfactorily and elegantly explaining the results of physics is the many worlds interpretation. This actually is in dissonance with point seven and yet it still undermines some varieties of cosmological argument (albeit in a different way). This is because it removes the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics so much that it makes every event uncontingent. In technical terminology, all of physical reality is in a superposition of quantum states which make up a wavefunction that never gets collapsed. The classical analogue would be like flipping a coin and both heads and tails came up in different worlds which branch off from each other, equally real, but we experience only one of the two. To those who believe that many-worlds is quantum mumbo jumbo, I refer this article from Sean Carroll. The consequence of the many worlds interpretation is that the sum of all the contingent worlds makes a necessary whole, much like the sum of the two outcomes of the coin toss makes a necessary whole. That falsifies the claim of the argument from contingency.


For those who are still reading I am going to add a final point in support of my claim that the soundness of the cosmological argument is unknowable with certainty by reason and experience that is available to us without extra revelation (which would be in contention anyway). It is, you might say, an argument from pessimistic induction: as our knowledge of science progresses and we learn more about the natural world, what we learn above all is how alien to our common sense it is. This makes evolutionary sense: the minds of human beings were not formed to contemplate quarks or comprehend how energy produces the curvature of space-time.

It is unsurprising that we intuit things that are false, but if we are honest with our findings we must acknowledge that the world is a weirder place than we could previously assume. The more we realise how unlike our daily life the real world is on scales that exceed it (the very small, the very fast, the very big, the very hot, the very cold, etc.) the more we must acknowledge how little we can justify on the basis of what appears obvious. Cosmological arguments are obvious arguments but the cosmos is not obvious. Therefore, to any claim of knowledge furnishes the premises of such arguments I respond "How do you know that?" Do not be surprised if I do not consider "It is obvious" to be an answer.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Why the Problem of Evil Creates a Problem

Undoubtedly the problem of evil is the most viscerally appealing, intuitive and ancient argument against the existence of an omniperfect God. In its oldest form, the argument from the existence of evil seems to have been adequately addressed. It went something like this:

(1) If God exists, evil does not.
(2) But evil does exist.
(3) Therefore, God does not exist.

The issue with this form of the argument is that it is too easy to show that the claim made in premise 1 is too strong; any plausible theodicy shows loopholes in the idea that God and evil cannot coexist. They standardly point to some good that could only be attained by allowing some evil, such as free will (part of Augustinian theodicy) or the importance of evil in spiritual growth (Irenaean theodicy). Some evil is a consequence of free will, which is important enough to tolerate that evil. Hence, it cannot be true that the existence of God is disproved by evil, since clearly God has reason to allow some evil.

The more modern and poignant form of the argument from evil is the evidential argument where evil is presented as something which lessens the probability of the existence of God rather than outright makes it impossible. These sorts of probabilistic arguments seem too nebulous to me to consider them seriously, so instead I will refer to the logical problem of evil with a more precise first and second premise: the argument from gratuitous evil.

(1) If God exists, gratuitous evil does not.
(2) Gratuitous evil does exist.
(3) Therefore, God does not exist.

Here, gratuitous evil is defined as evil that is not necessary to achieve some greater good. Explaining evil as required for some good is obviously not going to work here, but it does at least seem like gratuitous evil exists. Natural evils such as disease or natural disasters seem, in at least some proportion, to be gratuitous. Now, I think the theist has a very good counter at this point: just because it seems unclear to us why some particular evil exists does not mean that no such reason exists. We should be sceptical of our capacity to see the reason for evil if only because from out own experience we know that hindsight has shown particular events in our own lives which we evaluated as negative at the time to have redeeming positive qualities. Whoever had a day's sickness when the World Trade Centre went down, for instance, probably was not too pleased to be sick at the time and yet was rather pleased afterwards to know that they avoided a terrorist attack. God, however, has infinite foresight, so can see all the effects of any event and would be able to evaluate whether the good outweighs the bad.

This position is commonly known as sceptical theism and I think it is essentially correct. However, it implicitly contains ramifications which are disastrous for the religious person if not adequately addressed for it says something of the nature of God: God is clearly willing to tolerate evil for the sake of good. That is the implicit assumption of sceptical theism. This means that, in some sense, God is a consequentialist with regards to God's own actions (even if not for anyone else). What if God lies to us, or at least, allows some untruth to be said by some authoritative representative? Perhaps it could be responded that God would have no reason to do so - but sceptical theism has already postulated quite reasonably that God could have reasons which are beyond our comprehension or knowledge for allowing evil, therefore, God could allow such falsehood in divine revelation.

This in turn undermines the reliability of divine revelation as a whole, for the whole of sceptical theism is the statement that the absence of evidence for a reason does not imply evidence for the absence of a reason when it comes to what God allows or not. The philosopher Stephen Law goes further and argues that sceptical theism is a downwards spiral to the pits of scepticism, since all our faculties could be faulty if God had reason to deceive us, and for all we know God does in fact have such a reason. Law claims that full bodied scepticism is the logical end of sceptical theism, and whilst I disagree, it is irrelevant to the weaker claim which is that God's reliability is undermined.

Some theists reject sceptical theism because it leads to such consequences. To reject sceptical theism, however, is to claim that we must know the reasons behind God's actions, which seems patently false in general and more certainly false from a Christian perspective: the theodicy of the book of Job, for instance, seems essentially to assert sceptical theism. The unfathomable will of God, in turn, is cited by St Paul in his epistle to the Romans as the reason that salvation comes only to those whom God has elected. So sceptical theism, from the point of view of Christianity, seems true.

What can the Christian respond? I can only see one way out: faith. Let me be clear, however, by what I mean when using the word. I do not mean to say at this moment that Christians should believe God because they should trust that God could not have reasons to lie to them. That avenue is expressly ruled out by sceptical theism as a priori. What I mean is rather more inductive: based on the relationship to God as a person, Christians should bridge the gap and trust God. This is done every day by humans everywhere; we trust people who we know could be lying because we think we know them well enough to determine that they are not, in actual fact, lying. I believe this position at least safeguards the possibility of Christians considering divine revelation to be trustworthy. Once that is accepted it becomes a self-protecting belief because the Bible makes claims about God to the effect that God cannot lie, which can be interpreted as the claim that God could not have reasons to lie in actual fact.

Monday, 16 March 2015

At the Closing of the Council: Organic Developments the Concilium Should Have Implemented

The most important aim of the early Liturgical Movement was not the reform of the Liturgy to suit the people, but of the people to suit the Liturgy. This would mean, as St Paul exhorts the Romans, to "not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind," (Romans 12:2) and is therefore not a task to be treated lightly. As the Liturgical Movement grew and evolved, only then did the aims shift towards a more substantial reform of the liturgy itself.

I contend, together with Dom Reid in his book The Organic Development of the Liturgy which I have been reading, that the ideology that had captured the mind of prominent liturgists in the lead up to the Second Vatican Council and that held vogue during the Concilium which produced the Missal of Pope VI, now the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, was an unhealthy mix of antiquarianism and twisted pastoral concern. What I consider to have happened is this: a new rite of Mass was produced to suit the perceived needs of contemporary society by piecing together forms which were considered ancient enough, usually from the Patristic era, both Eastern and Western. The artificial collage of liturgical elements produced is a break from the received liturgical Tradition, and in my opinion has been liturgically disastrous since its introduction.

I will not try and defend here the fundamental premise that the only suitable reforms and developments of the Liturgy are those which follow organically from the objective liturgical Tradition, but I will briefly enunciate what that means. As Cardinal Ratzinger noted in his review of Reid's work:

"Between [...] the radical reformers and their radical opponents, the voices of those people who regard the Liturgy as something living, and thus as growing and renewing itself both in its reception and in its finished form, are often lost. These latter, however, basing this on the same argument, insist that growth is not possible unless the Liturgy's identity is preserved, and further emphasize that proper development is only possible if careful attention is paid to the inner structural logic of this "organism": Just as a gardener cares for a living plant as it develops, with due attention to the power of growth and life within the plant, and the rules it obeys, so the Church ought to give reverent care to the Liturgy through the ages, distinguishing actions that are helpful and healing from those that are violent and destructive."

So an organic development is one which is in line with the Liturgy's identity, authentically preserving its character, which will sometimes mean altering the Liturgy but never in an overly dramatic way. Any complete overhaul of the Liturgy cannot be considered organic and is consequently to be rejected. Whether one thinks it is the best change since Christ first changed the bread into his own Body at the Last Supper or a catastrophic change, the Missal of Paul VI is undeniably not an organic development.

I think an interesting question to consider is what would count as organic development in light of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the Liturgy. The Dogmatic Constitution on Sacred Liturgy produced by the Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium, certainly gave mandate to make some reforms to the Liturgy. What would reforms true to the nature of the Liturgy have been? Taking the Mass as it stood in 1962, I consider the following modest proposals to cover the requisite bases:

1. Reform of the Church's liturgical calendar such that the temporal or seasonal calendar has marked pre-eminence over the sanctoral (saints) calendar. This would not mean a complete overhaul of the liturgical calendar, but mainly a reform of the rubrics which specify how the two calendars would interact.

2. The participation of the faithful in the responses normally said only by the altar servers during the fore-Mass and Mass. I think an abbreviation of the prayers at the foot of the altar by having only one Confiteor said by the celebrant, altar servers and faithful is appropriate, although it is more important that the congregation have a Confiteor than that there only be one. This is in part a development covered by the emergence of the Missa dialogata.

3. Removing the need of the priest to repeat the sections of the Mass sung or said by the faithful, particularly the Ordinary (Kyrie, Credo, Gloria, Agnus Dei...) and readings, if done by a lector.

4. The Propers of a Mass should have the option of being prayed in the vernacular, particularly at a Missa lecta. These are the Introit, Collect, Epistle, Gradual, Gospel, Offertory, Secrets, Communion verse and Postcommunion. This restores them to them to their intended place, particularly consonant with the fact that all these (except the Secret, which can remain in Latin) are said aloud precisely so that they are intelligible to the faithful. The introduction of the vernacular for these is an authentic development of liturgical Tradition as it is a reform that restores these parts to their original intelligibility. The problem of adapting the vernacular to chant means that it is likely that a Missa cantata or Missa solemnis will retain the chanted Latin propers, but the option should remain of making some adaptation as is required.

5. The fore-Mass (Liturgy of the Word, Mass of the Catachumens) should be celebrated from the chair, as in pontifical Masses. This is a return to the fore-Mass's original place, which had been changed because of how the low Mass was developed for private Masses.

6. The more extensive use and preaching of Scripture, which would mean a slight amplification of the fore-Mass, but more importantly a re-structuring of the reading cycle, which I am unsure of how to do in an organic manner, given the venerable antiquity of the Roman lectionary.

7. Some rites lost in history could be returned in a reverent manner, including the Prayer of the Faithful and the Offertory procession.

8. Though I am weary of touching an artifact so old and venerable as the Roman canon, I am inclined to agree with Fr Brian Harrison when he said:

"I would suggest two changes to emphasise the role of the Holy Spirit at those key moments of the Eucharistic Prayer, the epiclesis, or invocation of the Spirit over the gifts, and the doxology. First, the words Spiritus Sancti virtute (“by the power of the Holy Spirit”) could well be inserted into the epiclesis prayer which begins Quam oblationem after the word quaesumus; and secondly, the entire doxology (which begins, “Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit”) could be given greater emphasis by saying or singing it aloud, as in the new rite, while elevating the chalice and paten, as an invitation for the people to respond with the final “Amen.” The contrast between this moment and the preceding silence of the rest of the Canon would provide a beautiful and dramatic consummation to the majesty of the Eucharistic Prayer." (Address to the St. Thomas Aquinas Society Eucharistic Conference, Colorado Springs, March 26, 1995)

9. Restoring the Ite, missa est to its place at the end of the Mass, and the abolition of the Leonine prayers in public Masses as well as the Last Gospel being either brought before the Ite or returned to private recitation by the priest.

If we are to include what I consider to be duplicated or excessive sections, I would mention the sentence added at the end of the Munda cor meum (the prayer before the proclamation of the Gospel) as one that could be removed as a repetition of what has just been prayed for, or the irrelevant later verses of the Lavabo psalm (Ps. 25) during the Offertory, which goes for longer than is required anyway. It may be possible to re-introduce some of the prefaces which were suppressed in history. But these would be relatively minor changes to the prayers of the Mass.


It is clear that some of these changes were made with the introduction of the Missal of Paul VI. Yet, whilst I have listed a number of changes, what this might cloud is how much would remain the same: almost everything. Using a one of the common booklet of the 1962 missal for usage of the faithful in this reformed Mass would be fairly straightforward. Latin has been retained for almost everything except the changing parts of the Mass. The Canon is still silent. Mass is ad orientum. The prayers are the same.

Not only do I consider these changes essentially the sum of what Sacrosanctum Concilium called for, I consider that these reforms would be all that was required to bridge the gap between priest and congregation which had so much been decried. The task would then continue to be what it has always been: for the entire People of God to be elevated and transformed in conformity to the Divine Liturgy, and ultimately, to God himself.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

What is a good liturgy?

Among my friends, it is customary to talk at great length about liturgy, good and bad. The Second Vatican Council did, after all refer to the Divine Liturgy of the Mass as the "source and summit" of the Christian life, that is, the beginning from which the Christian life flows, and that to which it is aimed and finds its true end. Consequently, we are highly concerned that the liturgy is done correctly. Our conversations often begin with some story of a terrible abuse of the liturgy, and progress from there to a thorough discussion of all things liturgical.

There are certain clear points on what constitutes an abuse. First of all, an abuse occurs when there is a breakdown of obedience to the due authority, which in the case of the Mass, is the rubrics that govern its proper use. Therefore, if one is unsure whether something is an abuse (I will restrict myself for the moment to the Ordinary form of the Roman rite, also known as Novus Ordo) then one can check the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), or the Roman Missal itself.

This on its own would uncover, at least where I live, such a large amount of liturgical abuse that it would fuel our conversations for months. For instance, the GIRM requires that the main place be given to Gregorian chant in the Mass, although this does not exclude other forms of sacred music, of which it names polyphony. I can count on one hand the number of parishes I have heard Gregorian chant or polyphony in the Mass. The same paragraph (41) says that the faithful precisely because they come from diverse cultures should be able to sing at least some of the Ordinary of the Mass, especially the Profession of Faith (the Creed) and the Lord's prayer (Our Father). The noise levels in most parishes go against the rules for sacred silence given in paragraph 45, which extend to before the celebration of Mass begins. Moving away from the sounds side, the GIRM also specifies that the sign of peace, whatever the Conference of Bishops actually decides it should be - the ACBC has it that the most common form is a handshake, although for those belonging to different cultures are not barred from expressing it in their way - needs to be in a sober manner, and only to those who are nearest. Or take an instance of an abuse from a priest: the priest is to wear an alb, stole and chasuble (119) and the chasuble covers the stole (337). There is also an alarming tendency to miss certain prayers, such as the Munda cor meum, which most would not notice since it is a prayer said quietly. Most parishes also have an excessive abundance of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, which are not required and are meant to be used only when the parish is enormous. Plus, EMHC are only meant to be included after those with Holy Orders have become too occupied and the ministers of the altar (in particular, instituted acolytes, or failing that, altar servers) have become over-burdened. Usually what happens in my experience is that someone else is brought up when the altar server is left not doing much. Or consider the building itself: the GIRM mandates that church buildings express the hierarchical structure of the People of God, which means that the ordained have a place distinct from the laity (294). Altars should be fixed and immovable, indeed, made of stone (298, 301). Tabernacles should be in a truly noble, prominent, conspicuous place (314). Sacred vessels (like the chalice and paten) should be made of precious metal (328).

I hope this brief sampling of abuses is a sufficient to get my point across that liturgical abuses happen and are common. Still, another question arises if one pushes deeper: certainly it is the case that obedience to the due authority is proper, but one may still ask why these norms are the way they are. What principles underlie them?

The first principles of liturgy are obvious enough: the liturgy needs to incorporate certain elements that it has had from apostolic times, including reading from the Scriptures (indeed, one way of looking at the canon of Scripture is as the texts which are appropriate for use in the liturgy) and the Sacrifice of the Mass. This latter part will mean that there is a a consecration of the Eucharistic species, and consequently, an institution narrative. The way in which these are done is consequently to be done appropriately. This means that one of the operative words underlying our response and conduct to the Mass is reverence, as the Scriptures themselves frequently demand reverence in the face of an encounter with God.

Reverence is sorely missing in most parishes these days. Reverence, just to be clear, is a combination of respect, awe, and fear. As common instances of lack of reverence the Holy Scriptures are often mostly ignored by the congregation and the Real Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is mostly disregarded, indeed, the manner in which even the priest celebrates the Mass is conducive to this lack of reverence.

Other words which ought to appear in discussions of proper liturgy include mystery, sacred otherness, awe, beauty and penitence. The otherness, the holiness of God leads to mystery, awe, beauty, whilst our iniquity makes us penitent, particularly in light of the reality of the Cross and sacrifice of Calvary made present in the Mass, a reality which has only ever occurred on account of our sins.

There is, however, a quite distinct angle in addition to these which many of my friends take: they assume that the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (the so-called Latin Mass, although strictly speaking both forms are the Latin Mass) is in principle normative (or close to), and that the Ordinary Form of the Mass should hence be as close to it as possible. Heck, an unusually large number of my liturgically minded friends (compared a random sample) would prefer abrogating the OF Mass and the sole use of the EF. Their basic argument is that the OF is so different that it constitutes a break from tradition and is so significantly inferior to the EF. Some use arguments such as "the Traditional Latin Mass/Tridentine Mass/EF/Vetus Ordo is the Mass of the saints/martyrs/majority of the Church." This is different to saying that it is more reverent or mysterious or so forth, although they also make arguments along those lines. In short, for some, the EF is better because it is more traditional, sine plus.

This year, one of my main interests is to learn about and evaluate the principles that regard the liturgy, particularly the Mass. I intend to do this in three phases: learn how the liturgy developed, learn what the Magisterium considers to be the most important principles in guiding the celebration of the liturgy, and then making comparative study between the OF and EF. By the end of it, I should have a well-informed grasp of the liturgy, and be able to make similarly informed judgements of what directions the reform of the liturgy should take today, particularly by being able to evaluate arguments offered on all sides of the debate.