The therapeutic mentality has developed especially in post-Protestant America because the waning of an “ascetic” culture – a culture of authority, moral demands, and self-discipline – is its most fertile soil. It is a mentality which, virtually as a matter of principle, ceases even trying to resolve contradictions or opposing demands (the stuff of tragedy) and in effect tells people, “Live within your moral means.” Self-improvement, then, becomes the characteristic modern faith. “Prophets” arise who, unlike those who classically bore the name, preach the mechanisms of release rather than control, “liberating” people rather than placing greater responsibilities on them. […]

So complete was the intellectual victory of the therapeutic mentality that many in the Church are now unable even to conceive of renewal in any terms other than further acts of release from obligations.

James Hitchcock, Catholicism and Modernity (1979)


Traditional Catholicism is variously patronized , derided, condemned, or ignored by self-consciously modern Christians, on the equally various grounds that it is outdated, narrow, inhuman, or incredible. Yet behind these sundry forms of rejection lies an unacknowledged fact: a firmly transcendental religion, a deeply held belief in the eternal God, is a constant threat to the humanistic Catholicism so skillfully fashioned in the past twenty years. To take seriously the Absolute, to endeavor sincerely to see all of life under the aspect of eternity, is to impose great inconveniences on the comfortable arrangements which advanced modern Christians have made with the world. Thus the priest or the nun is tolerable in his or her role as “minister,” that is, as a professional specialist applying skills to the facilitation of community life. But the priest or the nun as representative of the sacred, as ambassador of God, cannot be tolerated. For the same reason not only are classic conversion stories no longer told, but those converts who entered the Church because they experienced the call of the absolute and unwavering God are sometimes the objects of hostility.

The “relevance” of Catholicism has always lain in its power, not its contemporaneity, that is, in its ability to communicate to the individual a sense of God’s majesty and unchanging will, along with the concomitant promise of eternal life. It is this which is now, under the misnomer of “triumphalism,” rejected by so many Churchman who enjoy strategic influence. The Church’s crisis is not primarily intellectual, as it is often stated, not primarily the question whether its doctrines are any longer credible. During the supposedly intellectually barren period between Modernism and the Second Vatican Council, the Church did not cease to attract or keep highly respectable individuals from the artistic and intellectual worlds – Maritain, Gilson, Claudel, Peguy, Waugh, Greene, Rouault, Mauriac, Marcel, and Chesterton, a few among the many, along with others like Bergson and Simone Weil who were attracted but never formally converted. There is no even remotely comparable record of distinguished adherents to liberal Protestantism, despite the most strenuous efforts to make Christianity intellectually respectable and up-to-date. The crisis of the Church is not primarily intellectual and probably never was. It is personal and spiritual, a crisis of fundamental self-understanding and will. It proceeds from the failure of nerve, not the perplexities of the intellect.

James Hitchcock, Catholicism and Modernity (1979)

Apart from Bologna (which saw seven protestants and saw one of the four executions on this list), protestants appear rarely in the figures from central and southern Italy: a conventicle of five women who celebrated their own communion at Ancona provided the only significant episode. From Tuscany southward, magic was the most common charge. Naples at self-reported only one sentence against a female Judaizer. Taken all in all, these documents add up to a tantalizing snapshot of the general activities of the Roman Inquisition moment when the holy office of the Venetian Republic resembled of those throughout northern Italy in their preoccupation with protestant heresies, while those in the duchies of the Po valley or Tuscany were already turning to the prosecution of illicit magic as their chief concern.

John Tedeschi, The Prosecution of Heresy (1991)

The Roman Inquisition was reconstituted in 1542 to combat the menace of Protestantism in the Italian peninsula, where as the Spanish Inquisition had been created more than half a century earlier to deal with massive numbers of converted Jews. The nature of what was considered “heresy” in each system reflects these original concerns. In northern and central Italy, “Lutheranism “overwhelmingly dominated the first generation of inquisitorial activity, lasting until the 1580s. The venetian records offer a truly remarkable example: over its first 35 years (1547-1582) this holy office tried more than 700 “Lutherans” among its first 1,200 cases- plus 36 Anabaptists, 68 cases of “heresy in general,” 20 of eating meat during Lent, and almost 90 concerned with possession or reading of prohibited books. Approximately 80 percent of these early cases, therefore, concern protestant or crypto-protestant behavior. In the Venetian Terrafirma, Aquileia-Concordia showed a similar concentration on such offenses during its first 38 years (1557-1595); of its initial 380 cases, 200 or four suspected product to Paris sees and 74 for consuming meat during Lent (A possible indication of northern influences at work). In this rural area of low literacy there were only 12 cases of prohibited books. Again, over 75 percent of these cases may have involved Protestant sympathies. […]

In the Spanish portions of southern Italy our statistics suggest a different meaning in the holy office’s concern with heretics. Although a sizable share of the earliest preserved cases from Naples maybe classified as heresy trials, if you deal with protestants; in fact, through 1620 accused Mohammedans outnumbered reputed protestants by more than five to one. The diligent Spanish inquisitors uncovered large numbers of Protestants, but here too these were numerically swamped by the followers of Islam. Before 1560, the Sicilian Holy office tried more than 50 Protestants (more than any other tribunal in the Spanish system) and only eleven Moslems; but between 1560 and 1615, they judged nearly four Moslems for every protestant (471 and 138 respectively).

John Tedeschi, The Prosecution of Heresy (1991)

After the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church retained this principle: the chants of the Proper are an integral part of the Mass, hence should be sung in Latin (as Gregorian chant or a polyphonic setting), or at least recited by the celebrant. But by this time, as a consequence of historical processes, the system of institutions that formerly maintained and supported the continuity of chanting, had collapsed. In some churches there remained choirs (capellae) executing the pale and “boring” Gregorian Propers as a ritual obligation between the performance of two splendid movements of a polyphonic Ordinary. Some monasteries were also able to maintain the regular singing of the Proper chants. In the majority of Masses, however, it was left to the celebrant to read the texts in silence whilst the congregation nurtured its own religious feelings and passed the time by singing the pious hymns created as a result of Protestant influence. The mere reading of the Proper chants shriveled the texts into brief “logia,” bits of connective tissue between the “important” parts of the service.

No wonder, then, that for many the Proper chants became an obligatory but very subordinate, non-essential part of the liturgy, incapable of offering much spiritual sustenance even to the priest celebrant. Problems of this nature were but of marginal interest to the religious movements of the 17th and 18th centuries, and only the liturgical renewal of the 19th century (Dom Gueranger, Bishop J. M. Sailer) offered any chance for the a reversal of the decline. The best efforts at reform, however, encountered serious obstacles, and the results were rather narrowly circumscribed. But their real significance lay in the “appeal” they voiced: to look for and work toward a better future. The apostles of liturgical renewal urged the establishment of choirs in many churches, with appropriate musical formation to enable them to sing the chant, including the Proper chants (largely to Gregorian tunes) according to the rules of the Church.

What was missing, unfortunately, was the supporting system of institutions, which would guarantee the universal and uninterrupted achievement of this goal -, independently of personal and individual zeal. Along with the other texts, the Proper chants were also transmitted to the faithful in the bilingual missals whose influence was enormous. For many Catholics the missal became their most important spiritual nourishment, more important perhaps than even the Bible, because once drawn into the rhythm of the Church’s life, they received God’s word and the Church’s prayer within the vivid context of the liturgy under the protecting wings of liturgical observation. Such persons also became attached to the Proper chants as to sacred texts… but only as texts. (While singing, a text extends in space and time, and thus touches not only the intellect, but other spheres of the heart and soul as well).

The liturgical renewal greatly enriched and supported both priests and layfolk by publishing explanations of the liturgy. Drawn from good sources, these commentaries transcended the moral sermonizing of Baroque and Enlightenment schoolbooks, and did not fail to include the chants of the Proper, interpreting them in the spirit of the liturgy. It is regrettable that these commentaries did not reach the entire larger community of the faithful, and even more regrettable that they did not permeate the great majority of the clergy either.

Complete success was not achieved because of three failures or deficiencies: 1) The liturgical renewal remained more of an exhortation and a pious desire than a concrete program energetically taken up and vigorously executed by the entire institution of the Church. 2) No mechanism was developed for combining the true preservation of Latin with the linguistic communication of the liturgy to persons unfamiliar with Latin. 3) There was no bold creative action to find ways of presenting music to people of the age, unable to perform universally the Proper chants in their full form. Vatican II was predestined to accept and pass on the noble legacy of the century-old liturgical renewal and to solve the problems that had emerged. Though the principles of the Council’s Liturgical Constitution promised the restoration of liturgical singing, events after the Council in fact led to the disappearance of liturgical singing.

Laszlo Dobszay, The Bugnini-Liturgy and the Reform of the Reform (2003)

Some wished to modernize it opening free entrance to “reasonable” proposals and ideas inspired by the spirit of “Humanism.” This tendency represented an overt departure from the Roman tradition. One of the experiments gained wide acceptance: a new breviary published under the name of cardinal Quignonez made the Office more “rational.” It ousted a great part of the traditional repertory, made the Hours quite uniform (with three psalms in each), and removed the chanted genres. The result was a short, “geometrically” arranged breviary, destined for reading. Since this breviary shortened the portion of the priests’ daily prayer considerably, it gained rapid and wide acceptance.

The other proposal was to “purify” the Office from the “ballasts” and restore it in the spirit of tradition. This trend found a good argument partly in the results of the “humanistic” reforms, partly in the liturgical innovations of Protestantism, which made clear (in a negative way) how closely the cult is connected with the depositum fidei (the preservation of the purity of faith).

The Tridentine Council rejected the reform Offices (the Quignonez breviary included). Those who were obliged to pray the Office could either return to their traditional local (-Roman) rite, or take over the new Roman-Tridentine liturgical books planned to be prepare subsequently. The new breviary published with the authority of St. Pius V was a slightly modified version of the Officium Romanae Curiae which was the supposed “authentic” form of the Roman tradition. The medieval additions and the legacy of the Carolingian or Post-Carolingian times (accepted earlier in great parts of Europe) were to a great extent omitted, and the Tridentine Breviary (like its predecessor, the Curial one) also ousted the “pastoral” elements taken over from the tradition of ancient Roman basilicas.

Laszlo Dobszay, The Bugnini-Liturgy and the Reform of the Reform (2003)

No wonder that the work of conversion in Mexico followed hard upon the heels of conquest, and to quote Bourne’s words farther,

“The Aztec priesthood relaxed its bonds and the masses were relieved from the earlier burdens of the faith. In the old world the progress from actual to vicarious sacrifice for sin had been slow and painful through the ages; in the new it was accomplished in but a single generation. The old religion had inculcated a relatively high morality, but its dreadful rites overhung the present life like a black cloud and for the future it offered little consolation.” …”The work of the Church was rapidly adapted to the new field of labor.”

The triumph of the Church’s influence was the preservation of the natives and their gradual uplift. This was a slow process and required almost divine patience, but it was infinitely better than the method by which the English-speaking colonies, in a chapter of history that is almost untellable in its completeness, brought the natives of the country that they had invaded to ruin and practically obliteration. This experiment in applied sociology so successfully accomplished must be placed to the credit of the Spaniards also, and it stands out with all the more interest by contrast with English neglect of duty…

If the effort to understand Spanish America now so manifest will only go to the extent of having our people realize the full truth that until the nineteenth century English America was far behind Spanish America in facilities for higher education, in culture and literature, in the application of the arts to municipal life and, above all, in interest in science, then the prevalent impression that the Popes and the Catholic Church are opposed to genuine progress and true science will disappear. Catholic America was far ahead of Protestant America in scientific education and research until the untimely break from Spain left the Spanish-American countries the prey of political disturbances.

James J. Walsh, The Popes and Science (1908)

For Americans it is very probable that the chapter in the history of science which will demonstrate most clearly that there was not only no opposition on the part of the Popes or the Church authorities to the teachings of science or its development, but on the contrary encouragement and patronage, in spite of our English traditions to the contrary, is that which gives even very briefly the story of the evolution of science and its teaching on the American continent. Notwithstanding the very prevalent impression, indeed we might say the practically universal persuasion, that there was nothing worth while talking about in any department of education in America before the nineteenth century, except what little there was in the English colonies, and while it is confidently assumed that above all science received no attention from our Southern neighbors, Spanish America not only surpassed English America in education, but far outdistanced English America in what was accomplished for scientific research and the evolution of the knowledge of a large number of scientific subjects in a great many ways.

Even those among us who thought themselves well read in American history have, as a rule, known almost nothing of this until comparatively recent years. Professor Bourne of Yale, whose untimely death deprived the United States of a distinguished historical scholar, was the first to point out emphatically how far ahead of the English were the Spanish colonies in every mode of education, but particularly in the cultivation of science…

Two Spanish-American universities were founded under Papal charters almost a full century before Harvard as our first small college in English America began its career. Harvard was not to be a university in any proper sense of the term for a full century and a half after its foundation, while the universities of Mexico and Peru, largely under the influence of the ecclesiastical authorities and owing nearly everything to Church patronage under the Spanish Crown, had all the essential university faculties before the close of the sixteenth century. In spite of the predominant Church influence, which, if we were to credit former English traditions, must have been fatal to the evolution of science, Professor Bourne’s researches show that in the sixteenth century the Spanish-American universities were already doing such scientific work as the students in English America became interested in only during the nineteenth century.

James J. Walsh, The Popes and Science (1908)

As the Byzantine Church spread to regions inhabited by pagans, new branches of its rite sprang up in the new languages. This process involved not only the texts of the celebrant, but also the chant which began to be sung in the new languages without any speculation about the linguistic character or difficulties caused by different prosodic conditions. As an obvious procedure the same chant was sung, changing only the language. This process is so natural that I myself once met a cantor who sang ex abrupto in Serbian from the Bulgarian ritual or vice versa, as necessity required.

When the Hussites or Luther and his followers decided to change the language of the service, they could have gone down the same path. But rather another path was opened, namely, the replacement of liturgical chants with new examples. At first these were more or less related to the chant, but later they became poems with only a slight reminiscence of liturgical or biblical texts, and finally they evolved into fully independent congregational hymns inspired by subjective religious experiences. The divergence of these two paths took place in connection with changes in the history of literature, liturgy and music. Byzantine chant consists of artistic prose enunciated in an idiomatic musical language, while literature in the age of the early Protestant movements was dominated by strophic verse, the “poem,” and the music by melodious, syllabic, metrical singing.

Strangely, Protestantism while advocating “sola scriptura” proved insensitive to the wording and musical form proper to the Bible taking instead the late medieval trope and cantio as a starting point for its chant. A genuine reform, the longed-for return to “origins” would have meant basing the singing of the congregations on the prose text of the Bible by adapting idiomatic musical material. However, the Reformation simply continued the development of the late Middle Ages in liturgical chant (as in many other matters), instead of returning to the primordial Christian traditions. In this matter, too, it was a child of its time.

Laszlo Dobszay, The Bugnini-Liturgy and the Reform of the Reform (2003)

[T]he arguments advanced to show the opposition of the Catholic Church to science are founded on actual ignorance of the history of science or misunderstandings of particular incidents of that history. Not only was there no policy of opposition to science, but on the contrary encouragement of interest in scientific subjects, patronage of scientific workers and even definite endowment of scientific research by the ecclesiastical authorities. The tradition of Church opposition to science is founded especially on lack of knowledge of what was done for science in the medieval period and a misunderstanding of the medieval universities. This tradition owed its origin partly to the Renaissance, which, having rediscovered Greek, despised whatever Western Europe had accomplished during the preceding centuries and spoke of all that was done as Gothic, as if only worthy of barbarous Gothic ancestors.

Another large factor, however, in the creation of this tradition and one which meant more for us here in America than the Renaissance, was the religious revolt of the sixteenth century in Germany which has been called the Reformation. The reformers made it a point to minimize, if not actually to misrepresent, what had been accomplished under the old Church regime, and this Protestant tradition lived on here in America with much more vitality even than in Europe.

The consequence was the bringing up of a series of generations, who, if not actually believing as so many absurdly did, that the Pope of Rome was the Scarlet Woman and the Church the Babylon of the Apocalypse, were quite sure at least that no good could possibly have come out of the Nazareth of pre-Reformation times. It is only in recent years that we have come to recognize that all the talk about the Dark Ages is, as John Fiske said, simply due to ignorance of the time and its accomplishment. The later medieval period might well be called the “Bright Ages” for its art and architecture, its magnificent literature, its interest in education and in scholarship, its development of democracy and its formulation of the great laws and constitutions by which the rights of men were guaranteed in practically every country in Europe. Just as soon as this true state of affairs with regard to the medieval period is recognized, then all question of any policy of Church opposition to education and science disappears.

James J. Walsh, The Popes and Science (1908)