Friday, July 30, 2010


For those who would like to read a knowledgeable, theological commentary on one aspect of the liturgical reform that led to the Mass of Paul VI, we suggest the following link:

This masterly article by Fr. Stefano Carusi puts Work of Human Hands to shame. Paragraphs are structured, compact, and coherent; the commentary is lucid, profound, and groundbreaking; the language, even in translation, is accessible without irrelevant, snarky asides and a profusion of impenetrable slang; the details are judiciously selected; the tone is serious; the author's personality is virtually invisible, except for the very pleasant impression that we are under the wise guidance of a genuine expert; most important, the conclusions are soberly drawn and thought provoking.

Here we see what a trained and solid mind can produce and how such a mind can thereby advance, not impede, the discussion. Here we find competent theological insight. Here is authentic liturgical analysis. Unlike our experience with WHH, we come away from our reading informed and enlightened. But don't take our word for it: go to the Philothea Press website and read one of the "sneak-peek" excerpts. Then go to the Rorate Caeli blog and read several paragraphs of Fr. Carusi's article. You'll see for yourself that WHH is not merely inferior: it's without any substantive value.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

BLUNDER BOARD -- Message 2

From New York City:

Gentlemen: I draw your attention to an error on page 174, note 56, which confirms that Fr. Cekada has no linguistic feel for liturgical terminology, viz. antemensium.

The Reader replies: We consulted our shared copy of WHH, and no Reader had marked this huge blunder. We know that our cursory inspection of this bad book did not uncover all its wrongheaded errors, so we're grateful for the discoveries of others. Keep 'em comin'!

We agree the blunder is not an editing oversight. As you now know, Anthony Cekada doesn't have enough Greek and Latin to understand the underlying meaning of liturgical terms of art. The correct spelling is antimensium (the Latinized form, as in Jungmann vol. I, p. 253) or antimension (the transcription from the Greek). The word means "[the thing] instead of a mensa (lit. a table) " or "[the thing] in place of the flat stone top of a consecrated altar."

Our pitiable author doesn't know the difference between the Greek ἀντί (anti ='over, against, opposite, instead of, in place of, as good as, equal to, for the sake of') and the Latin ante ('before'). We understand how easy it is for an amateur to confuse the form with antependium (altar frontal), the plural of which appears in Jungmann a little later on p. 257.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

BLUNDER BOARD -- Message 1

From sunny California comes the following e-mail:

Great job, guys! For years I've been telling people that Anthony Cekada is no scholar. You have proved the emperor has no clothes. I know there wasn't enough room to record all his errors. Add this one to your list of bad editing:

On page 292 he spells the prayer to send down the Holy Ghost as epiklesis, but on page 328 it's spelled epiclesis.

The Reader replies: The editorial inconsistency of WHH is particularly annoying. If there is a choice of spelling, good academic press practice demands that an editor adopt one of the forms and stick to it. But, of course, mom-and-pop publishers can't provide such services, and individuals who do have such training stand far outside Fr. Cekada's cult.

The Reader has seen both spellings (e.g., in The Shorter O.E.D., Webster's Third New International Dictionary, O'Brien's Encyclopedia of Catholicism, and the B.A.C. edition of Righetti, the spelling with c is preferred); however, the spelling with k, a more faithful transcription of the Greek, is common in the professional literature cited in WHH (cf. the index entries in Fortescue, Dix, and Jungmann).

Saturday, July 17, 2010


"Oh, I've had such a curious dream!" said Alice.

Our misadventures in Anthony Cekada's Blunderland were no dream. We've endured a nightmarish trek through bad writing, pseudo-scholarship, and downright flubs. There's no defense for keeping the book in print, but we know that Fr. Cekada hasn't the sense to repudiate it or any of his other misconceived screeds.

For that reason, Pistrina Liturgica will keep on blogging. Throughout the remainder of the summer, we'll post on a Blunder Board brief notes from our supporters in the blogosphere who have e-mailed us errors they've found strewn like rabbit droppings all through Work of Human Hands. Moreover, as a public service we'll soon publish a warning about Father's latest assault on our sensibilities -- his "translation" of Ottaviani and Bacci's Breve Esame. That's another book you'll want to avoid buying. Just delete that annoying spam he sends.

Monday, July 12, 2010


“Stuff and nonsense!” said Alice loudly.

From the Reader-in-Chief

Pistrina Liturgica has reached the end of its chapters in Blunderland (but by no means has it catalogued all Fr. Cekada’s mistakes). The evidence introduced has proved beyond a doubt that Work of Human Hands is not a sober contribution to scholarly literature or to the criticism of the Mass of Montini. Its author, overmatched by the technical demands of the subject matter and disadvantaged by an absence of formal training, merits pity but not pardon.

Let’s sum up the evidence that has compelled the adverse verdict of the learned. The opening argument laid bare the self-taught author’s faults, from his inability to construct coherent written units of thought to his lame diction. On June 7, we exposed Anthony Cekada’s inappropriate facetiousness and incapacity to analyze beyond the surface. Less than a week later, we began to document fully the blunders that bar Work of Human Hands from the world of academic discourse. First we showed Father’s grammatical shortcomings in English, Greek, and Latin. Next we brought to light spectacular errors of fact that could have been prevented had Fr. Cekada checked. Subsequently, the Reader recited a list of the slang and colloquialisms that render the book unfit for international consumption. Then the Reader-in-Chief introduced a series of posts to show that Fr. Cekada cannot abide by the basic rules of academic research. In the first piece we caught him as he failed to make proper attribution of content. In the second, we proved him a deficient translator. The series concluded as we examined his lamentable inaccuracy. On July 8, we began our closing arguments with an analysis of the three, grossly out-of-place characters that Father tastelessly introduced (for comic relief, we suppose).

There is no need to declare what your judgment has long ago counseled: Work of Human Hands is not a serious work of scholarship, and its author should be ignored. There does, nevertheless, remain one unanswered question—a question that several correspondents have broached from time to time through Even though the book is shot through with grievous errors, is there yet something that might make it useful to traditional Catholics in search of arguments against the New Mass?

The query appeals to our own sense of fairness as well as to our experience. For instance, around 15 years ago we encountered James-Charles Noonan’s equally pretentious (but more professionally produced) The Church Visible. Like Work of Human Hands, it is a book deeply scarred by a poseur’s embarrassing blunders (e.g., “…the bells…peeled in sorrow,” “Tu es Petres,” “more than one pallia,” “Quator mundi cardines,” “cardinalatial.”). Nevertheless, there was something salvageable; so, with an abundance of caution, we added the volume to our library. Accordingly, we find it reasonable—even decent—to ask whether we may do the same with Work of Human Hands.

The reply is in the negative, and here’s why: One of the most promising sections of Work of Human Hands appears on p. 222, under the subhead statistics on the revisions. There Father attacks the Novus-Ordo claim that the New Mass has largely the same content as the old Missal. He then cites some telling statistics based on his own calculations. Taken at face value, they do indeed belie the Novus Ordo contention, and the average reader may be tempted to think that Anthony Cekada's figures could be of use.

However, our doubts about the author whisper, Are these statistics correct? Can we rely on Father Cekada to have done the careful, unglamorous work required to assure accuracy? Did he crosscheck his sources and facts? Did he painstakingly tabulate his data? Did he perform detailed word counts? Can he document his efforts? Is his Latin up to the task? Are his translations faithful to the originals? Did he draw his conclusions deliberately and rigorously, or did he rush to judgment? Did he consult experts or seek others’ review of his findings? If necessary, could he produce the worksheets on which he based his calculations? In short, did he sweat the small stuff?

Our evidence argues that he probably didn’t.

Now we’ll show the effects of Fr. Cekada’s many blunders by summarizing a thought experiment that we conducted. Out of our sense of fair play, we used the section captioned the elimination of “negative theology” (pp. 224-230) because there we encountered, at first blush, the most impressive pages in Work of Human Hands. In his footnote apparatus, Father profusely documented his claim that Consilium had redacted the “negative theology” of the old Missal. We sampled the Latin transcriptions and found them without fault, and the good, free translations in the text struck us as faithful to the sentiment in the Latin. The sheer quantity of the exhibits certainly bolstered his thesis. All this, it seemed, made a strong prima-facie case that Father’s work, in this section at least, could prove useful in traditionalists’ debates with adherents of the new Vatican II religion.

But what if the debate were to be held, say, in a prestigious scholarly journal or on a serious online forum? In other words, what if the stakes were very high? Based on what we have shown on Pistrina Liturgica, could you implicitly trust him to have recorded all data correctly, such that you could quote him without fear of a damaging rebuttal? After all, we’ve demonstrated that he is careless, error-prone, and superficial. Moreover, would you really want to appeal to a source laced with dopey slang and inane asides, especially if your own reputation were on the line?

Most circumspect scholars would not, in spite of the section’s appearing so much better than the rest of the book. If Father’s claim were really important to your argument, then you might reluctantly choose to double check the 200+ citations inasmuch as only one book is the chief source of the footnotes. Absent the condition, however, you might just choose to remain on the safe side and avoid the matter altogether. That’s why we again affirm that carelessness impeaches academic credibility.

And that’s why Anthony Cekada’s Work of Human Hands will never be a serious contribution to the traditionalist critique of the New Mass. Bottom line: Save your money: Pray for someone with credentials and ability to publish.

Feast of St. John Gualbert

Thursday, July 8, 2010


“Stupid things!” Alice began in a loud indignant voice…

From Reader #4

What would happen if we could sprinkle Work of Human Hands all over with pixie dust? Then suppose we could wish away its countless blunders, artless paragraphing, laughable conclusions, and wiseacre observations. What would be the result?

The answer is simple. We still could not take the book seriously owing to the presence of the meretricious characters “Father Chuck,” “Ms. Gauleiter,” and “Father Retreaux.” Anthony Cekada is evidently as pleased as Punch with his creatures because they are entered in the index [!] and figure in a few footnotes. These imaginary staffers of a Novus-Ordo parish were certainly drawn from real-life acquaintances and incidents in Father’s life. We also have met such types in our own unhappy contacts with New Church: the laid-back, glad-handing pastor; the domineering, hyper-politically-correct feminist worship director; the earnest, “conservative” assistant.

Admittedly Father’s drab characterizations are amusing after a smart-alecky, prepubescent fashion (“Ms. Gauleiter in bib overalls,” p. 368); they are even satisfying in a mean-spirited way (“Father Chuck’s jailed predecessor,” p. 376). However, caricature is not the stuff of a sober critique of the New Mass. (Clearly, it appears as though Fr. Cekada himself never imagined an educated readership in the first place, since he clumsily felt the need to make obvious the allusion behind the name Retreaux [“pronounced ‘retro,” p. 197].)

Personal portraiture like this (known generically as hypotyposis) belongs to a special class of literature called character-writing, which originated in ancient Greece. The literary form was further developed in seventeenth-century France. In the following century, it was perfected in England, where it met with popular success in satiric or humorous informal essays touching upon, in Addison’s words, the “folly, extravagance, and caprice of the present age.”

Our quibble here is that the “publisher” doesn’t hustle Work of Human Hands as satire or social commentary. The book’s back cover tells us that it’s a “scholarly work” and a “thorough and methodical study.” Message-board posts, online forums, and Father’s own church bulletin make wanton claims for its place in the history of liturgical studies and in Scholastic tradition. Yet this is no summer’s day dish of tarts, nor is it a fancy Christmas pie. We’ve stuck in our thumb and pulled out three slatternly stick figures instead of a rounded plum. What’s worse, these burlesque personalities, sketched with a dull crayon rather than a sharp pencil, fail as satire. They are no more than maladroitly traced cartoons inserted at random to give Father’s handful of slack-jawed fans an excuse for having raided the grocery budget. Bottom line: Don’t you be tricked into spending good money on this trumpery.

Feast of St. Elizabeth, Queen of Portugal

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


“ sounds uncommon nonsense.”

From Reader #3

“Accuracy,” wrote the redoubtable textual critic A. E. Housman, “is a duty and not a virtue.” As a matter of course, we never laud its presence, but we are duty-bound to condemn its absence. In this third of a series focusing on Fr. Cekada’s disdain for accurate academic documentation, we offer but two examples (and small ones at that), lest we exercise your patience after the long holiday weekend.

In all fairness, we won’t flog him for “Decima Session Plenaria” (p. 139, note 16), unquestionably an artifact of his spellchecker and a result of not hiring an editor with a practiced eye. Likewise, we won’t raise our eyebrows at “ampollositatem” (p. 96, note 44), for the inferior spelling may have been printed in the vulgar Consilium’s original (and Fr. Cekada’s Latin isn’t good enough for him to have spotted the variant and entered the editorial protest of a bracketed sic). We will, however, censure him for a pair of (apparently) trivial errors, insofar as such minikin inaccuracies are emblematic of Father’s mammoth insouciance.

“Errorlet” 1. On p. 115, Father makes an effort in his printed translation to distinguish between the “Liturgy of the Word” and the “Liturgy of the Eucharist”; however, in footnote 41, he prints “eucharistia” (the nominative [or ablative]) instead of the genitive eucharistiae. To be sure, the learned reader can readily supply the correct case, but one wonders why Fr. Cekada couldn’t have been more careful about getting this important text right in the first place. He should have been especially cautious about original-language citations because experts use them to judge a researcher’s craftsmanship, integrity, and trustworthiness. But, of course, he never imagined an expert readership, did he?

“Errorlet” 2. Although we overlooked one typo on p. 139, note 16, we cannot let pass unnoticed the howler “Missale Romano praemittendis” (line 3) instead of Missali Romano. Real scholars pay attention to their citations in order to make the work of verifying references easy. What makes the oversight more blameworthy is that he had a hint in line 2 of the same note, to wit, "pro Missali Romano." (We also think that his translation of the phrase Missal[i] Romano praemittendis as “to be set forth in the Roman Missal,” while not altogether wrong, falls a bit short of the mark. A decent Latinist would have more accurately rendered Bugnini’s original as “to be set out by way of preface to the Roman Missal” or “to be set out in the front matter of the Roman Missal.” Father’s inadequacy as a translator, however, is another post.)

Browning’s line that “great things are made of little things” ironically applies to Work of Human Hands: the many little slips, careless fumbles, rattlebrained goofs, and staggering errors render the book a massive failure of intent, effort, and execution. Its credibility is forever impeached because the untrained author, unlike a real scholar, refused to sweat the small stuff. That’s why we say Work of Human Hands is not serious.

In the sparsely peopled world of exacting scholarship, Disraeli’s precept that “little things affect little minds” is false. Great minds exercise their genius on the littlest of things, and small minds scorn the fine points. The two little errors we reviewed above could easily have been cured with a modicum of care. However, an undisciplined, small mind is always contemptuous of painstaking attention to detail. How true we find the words of Horace: parvum parva decent, which we freely render here as “pea-brained slackness befits a pint-sized wit.” Bottom line: Don't waste one tiny red cent on this big book of blunders.

Octave Day of Ss. Peter and Paul

Sunday, July 4, 2010


“…you can have no idea what a delightful thing a Lobster-Quadrille is!”

From Reader #2

Oh, that talk about Work of Human Hands was so tedious—and with a barrowful of boners. And all that squealing, too, to defend Anthony: I'll never go there again! But let’s not think of that today on my birthday. Everyone in Blunderland is getting ready to resume our story this Tuesday. Listen! A chorus of little errors is singing your invitation:

"Will you err a little faster?" said a blooper to a botch,

“There's a boo-boo close behind us, and he's making a foul splotch.

See how wickedly the blunders and the bungles all befog!

They are waiting for you online—will you come and read the blog?

Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you read the blog?

Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, won't you read the blog?

“You can really have no notion how mistaken is that schnook

When he takes us up and packs us, with the blunders, in his book!”

So the botch rejoiced, "How wrong, how wrong!" and gawked about agog—

Then he thanked the blooper blankly, for he would not miss the blog.

Would not, could not, would not, could not, would not miss the blog.

Would not, could not, would not, could not, could not miss the blog.

“It matters most that all log on,” his slipping friend advised,

“For then the world will see, you know, wherefore that book’s despised.

They’ll praise the Readers’ wisdom and thank them for their slog.

Now trip a nautch, beloved botch, and come and read the blog.

Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you read the blog?

Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, won't you read the blog?”

Bottom Line: Oh, please do read the blog on Tuesday. We have twin tiny stumbles to make you laugh at Work of Human Hands.

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Thursday, July 1, 2010


“In that case,” said the Dodo solemnly, rising to its feet, “I move that the meeting adjourn, for the immediate adoption of more energetic remedies—”

From Reader #2

It’s all so very interesting. But we must stop awhile in Blunderland so our American cousins can energetically go a-picnicking. And I have a birthday of sorts this Sunday. On Tuesday we shall resume our chronicle of bad form; I know we shall!

Now, what am I to do until next week? Let me think… I have it! I shall sit down and listen to a talk on Work of Human Hands. I’m sure I’ll hear many new squeaking blunders.

Bottom line: ïHappy Fourth of July!ð

And whatever you do on the holiday weekend's golden afternoons, don’t buy that silly book!

Octave Day of St. John the Baptist