Friday, June 30, 2006


...because Catholicity cannot be truly ‘Catholic’ - universal - without you, without the other authentic and apostolic ‘half’ of Christ’s Church [Orthodoxy], we have no intention of replacing you in this Church, for you are the only one capable of preparing us [the Eastern Catholics] a place in it.

Only as the Catholic Church opens and affords you a loving home within its fold, on an equal basis with the Latins, will we be able to feel at home in it ourselves.

Patriarch Joseph Slipyj of the Ukrainian Catholic Church

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I want (not)

No, part of being Catholic is not about what you want, or anybody else not in a position of authority wants. Its about what the Church wants. Its about discovering the mind of the Church.

Ralph McInerny says that the crisis after Vatican II is caused by the dissent of those who reject authority, and illustrates it with the rejection of the teaching authority of the Church when Humanae Vitae was released. A very readable book there.

Kevin Tierney says the same thing - the general decline in the lack of obedience. I once asked why Masses can be so frustrating. Kevin's answer is illuminating:

What will we do if Pope Benedict says faithful Catholics are not to attend SSPX chapels? I really don’t know how else I’ll be able to fulfill my Sunday Obligation, as I hate the Novus Ordo.

As we see, this is a clear case of the individual placing his own preferences, wants, desires over that of the Bishop of Rome’s prerogatives in defining who is in communion with him. In the case mentioned above, the answer is simple. Many drive a good distance to the schismatic illicit chapels as it is, if need be one can drive a long distance towards those Latin Masses approved by Rome. Otherwise, since they acknowledge the New Mass is valid, in order to fulfill their Sunday obligation they may have to sacrifice their personal preferences. It is a sad day when in the Church the liturgy becomes a place to practice penance, but if the situation warrants it, that is what our Church commands. In light of such obedience that pleases God, He will not let such cries go unheard.

The call to obedience is difficult. But we keep on trying.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Saints & Sinners

Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.

Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Religion is not necessary but spirituality is

I first heard a similar line when I watched a movie on television some years ago. The details are fuzzy, but I remember the protagonist asking a mysterious character, who was meditating, whether he was religious. The latter replied that he was not. Rather, he said was spiritual and went on to elaborate how the two were different.

I never knew then that the same idea about the two being separate and distinct would return to haunt my future. I thought this concept belonged to the beatnik and hippie generations in the United States. Never did I expect it to show up here!

Thankfully, those of my age group (I’d say 13-23) are free of this erroneous thought. Most are attached to a religion, though I’d hesitate to describe some of them as ‘organised’. This concept afflicts the mindsets of the previous generation – young adults in their late 20s to early 30s.

My experience has shown me that whenever a popular (usually handsome) young teacher is asked which faith he belongs to, he’d (almost always) give one of two possible answers 1) that he’s not religious, but spiritual or 2) that he doesn’t believe in any religion because they’re all corrupted, hypocritical, etc. I heard option 2 spouted as recently as some months ago.

Curious to know what this “spirituality” so many spoke of, I delved into various (unhealthy) web sites in the name of research. The general consensus between the diverse web sites of the term is that many “spiritual paths” exist in this universe and that there is no objective truth about which is the best one to follow. Many emphasise on the importance of finding one’s own path rather than following one that people say works. It is not a religion – it is the vital connection to one’s soul, sense of the deep self, etc.

I would beg to differ. Spirituality is not reason-oriented as many adherents so nicely describe it. Spirituality is self-oriented – “I want to seek the truth on my terms; I don’t want to listen to anybody else”. Spiritual practitioners (if I may term them as such) are hardly connected to the world. They reject organised religion because of the rampant corruption and oppression that the hierarchy rains down upon the faithful. Some think that believers of organised religions are either brainwashed minions of the hierarchy, coerced to remain, or simply lack the level of experience/education to understand better.

Taking the cue, many religions either have been invented or have been re-invented to cater to the burgeoning demand for a “spiritual” faith – e.g. Christian Science, Charismatic Christianity, Neo-Confucianism, Pentecostalism, Kabala, Hare Krishna, Neo-Paganism, etc.

At the end of the day, the corrupt understanding of “spirituality” is not about seeking one’s purpose in the universe – it’s about feeling good. One can eschew all the commitments (i.e. obedience, charity, time for worship, etc) that religions would customarily demand and yet claim to have a connection with the supernatural at the same time. Now, if one had surrendered all worldly possessions and lived for some years in the desert/mountains/caves as a hermit, I could take their word for it – but those who have made such claims to me happen to be the very same folk who are terrified of commitment and yet desire to feel secure about the afterlife – they’re either heading to heaven, there is no hell, there is no afterlife, etc. Reminds me of someone who’s in a relationship for sex/money and not love.

It’s more than a belief, I hear some call out:
Spirituality is living life at a depth of newness and gratitude, courage and creativity, trust and letting go, compassion and justice!

Gosh, what innovative ideas! Why didn't we hear this kind of brilliance before? Why haven't we been hearing about it for forty... long... tedious... years?

More on spirituality and religion soon - comments/questions are welcome

Monday, June 19, 2006


The Cassock and Cotta was started in August last year to be a notepad of sorts to scribble down musings (along with random quotations) on the faith and liturgy from a traditionalist perspective. Today we attract a readership of about 2 a day.

Today, The Cassock and Cotta comprises of 4 contributors (some regular, some not so regular):

The Mastermind
Norman, confirmed as Paul, is someone we'd describe as a SNAG - Simple, Normal, Average Guy. Nothing of particular mention, really - except that he's currently pursuing a doctorate and that he's lector at his parish in West Singapore. However, he would rather be an altar server anytime. He is involved in several singing projects at point of writing. He remains an outspoken critic of the abuses and silly things done by the liberals as well as the disobedience shown and silly things done by the radical traditionalists.

[edited the last two sentences - Norman]

Michael's grandmother described him as a "future secret society member, drug addict, bank robber and an inmate" - whether in a prison or mental institution, she has never clarified. Michael is quite the opposite of that description, really. Never one to jump to conclusions, Michael is the voice of reason in a blog that has a strong tendency to border on the inane. He likes to serve at the altar, and when he does, he always makes sure it is done properly. We all think black is his favourite colour.

[added the last two sentences - Norman]

Edward was born Roman Catholic and became heavily involved in traditionalist movement during his teenaged years - even becoming a Feenyite at some point. Despite becoming Eastern Catholic some years later, Edward has never ceased being traditionalist. In his own words, he "now understands that tradition is living - not dead and set in stone". With such a background (for that reason, he is sometimes regarded with suspicion by both the Orthodox and Catholics alike), Edward understands both East and West well enough to comment on either side. A graduate of King's College, London, he is fluent in approximately 7 to 8 languages and plays the lute.

["my godmother thought Edward was Jewish" - Constantine]

Constantine is the only contributor not in communion with Rome. Born and raised a Presbyterian, he made the momentous decision to convert to Eastern Orthodoxy some three years ago. Regularly attending church since, he was received into the Church on Holy Pascha this year. An avid reader of history, he understands full well that the Church can breathe with two lungs. Ecumenist he may well be, but liberal he is certainly not. He remains thoroughly fundamentalist on essential points of Orthodox doctrine. A Slavophile, he wants to visit Moscow - anyone with a plane ticket to spare?

[added the last sentence - Norman]

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Holy Father

An assessment from a traditionalist priest in Ireland:

"Pope Benedict is misunderstood by both sides of the great debate. The progressives see hope for themselves in his gentle manner and slowness to act. The traditionalists see the same things, and despair. Neither reaction is sensible. This man is a thinker and something of a contemplative. Nothing is stranger to him than the methods of his predecessor, and he will reveal neither himself nor his intentions by big gestures or flamboyant pronouncements. He has had a year to watch and to pray.

That year, just passed, was quiet: decisions, although few, were all in one direction. Let us revisit them briefly: the cashiering of Archbishop Sorrentino and his replacement by a known friend of the liturgical tradition; the appointment of bishops sympathetic to the old rite in country after country; the hugely increased place of Latin, Gregorian chant, polyphony and even Mozart (as heard at the recent Mass in honour of the Swiss guards) at papal liturgies.

And outside the liturgical realm: the removal of Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald (a believer in “dialogue” with Islam) from the Curia, in place of the cardinal's hat widely predicted for him by his friends on the Left; the precise and deeply traditional tightening of the rules, become scandalously lax under John Paul, for beatifications and canonizations; the abolition of two dicasteries in what is widely understood to be but the first step in a root-and-branch reform of the bloated curial bureaucracy; finally, an insistence on every possible occasion that his role as pontiff is to pass on intact the deposit of the Faith and to draw the attention of the world not to himself, nor to a Christ one-sidedly human, but to Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

But Benedict is not the restorationist we might wish him to be: he is indeed a reformer, but to that perverse understanding of reform which has dominated in the Church for forty years he now counters with his own. He has made his understanding of an authentic reform clear on a number of occasions, but never more incisively than in his address to the assembled Curia on 22 December of last year (our photo was taken on that occasion: note the tiaras on Pope Benedict's throne). In asking, “Why has the reception given to the Council so far been so difficult?” he blamed a “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture” which he said had “caused confusion” and was “frequently able to find favour among mass media, and also certain sectors of modern theology”.

Alas, those sectors are broad and deep, and continue to dominate in many a seminary and even episcopal conference. Nevertheless they have taken notice, and fear that their time is short. Reform though can be radical even when authentic. We must all brace ourselves for immense changes in our relationship with the Orthodox for example. As undiplomatic a figure as Patriarch Alexis of Moscow has recently stated that Benedict will be the Pope whose “actions will become famous and will be remembered” for their positive effect upon relations between the two Churches. Too many traditionalists, precisely because they are not authentically so, see nothing but scandal here.

On the contrary, the reunion of East and West is the most radically traditional program imaginable. Successfully accomplished, it would revolutionize the position of Christianity in the world and give pause to the secularists. These last are in triumphant mood, but they have met their match in Benedict."

[via Katolik Shinja]

Monday, June 12, 2006

Pray a few Psalms each day

And now, we stop our regular programming to bring you some messages!

Received in an email

"Pray a few psalms each day, simply starting at the beginning of the Book of Psalms and going through the whole book... These prayers, which were inspired by the Holy Spirit, will form our prayer. These are prayers Jesus prayed. They are prayers fulfilled in the New Testament. They can help us pray when we draw a blank and do not know what to say."

Ralph Martin
Called to Holiness Ignatius Press

Yes, Ralph Martin expresses it very well.

I'm sure many of us know how to take it one step further from "Pray a few psalms each day". It's called the Divine Office.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

"our humble awareness that we don't see what the Pope is doing in the background; nor necessarily understand his overall strategy."

Sometimes, other people express succintly what I have difficulty saying. This is it.

From NLM blog

The thing we must always keep in mind is that the Church is both human and divine.
We can be realists about the crisis surrounding us without succumbing to despair at the same time. Sure, look reality in the face; don't look at problems with rose-coloured glasses; acknowledge problems and lay out critiques where they are merited. But let us always remember that the Church isn't merely a human institution. History has show that institution can be brought to the brink but then brought back from it.

It is a trick of satan to ultimately go after the likes of Pope Benedict and despair that he is "doing nothing" for example -- even though we do not have the sight to see and know for certain what he is doing! What a great strategy of the devil! We attack those whom we should most support and trust, thus dividing ourselves.

The focus of our "attack", if you will, should rather be upon those things that are destroying our faith, and not on those whom we know share our faith and, one way or another, seek to help it. That is particularly where our trust and patience need come into play, and also our humble awareness that we don't see what the Pope is doing in the background; nor necessarily understand his overall strategy.

Christ, and heaven, will prevail.