Saturday, August 25, 2012


Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.  Whitehead

Practical, demonstrated knowledge informs our clerical vocational training program. The sole aim is to enable trainees to administer the sacraments with competent ease. There's no false pretense that we're producing anything like pre-Vatican II priests. We know it can't be done, at least not in American sede circles. (If you want first-rate performance, go to an FSSP or SSPX chapel.)

The facts are simple: there's no professionally trained cadre of instructors to make it happen in Sedelandia USA. We've seen that the self-taught, embarrassingly unprofessional "professoriate" has too many yawning gaps in its little learning to manage an authentic program of priestly formation.  (Not knowing the difference between a noun and an adjective is just the tip of the iceberg of ignorance: the Blunderer's Work of Human Hands shows how deep it goes.) Let's face it: the faithful really don't need classically formed priests during the crisis anyway. What they do need for their salvation is clergy more competent than the malformed Pesthouse completers and their poseur "instructors." (They also don't need grasping servants of Mammon, either.)

Therefore, the second and final year of our program focuses exclusively on mastery of the performance skills that normal Catholics expect a priest to possess. Our products may be "sacrament machines," but the laity will at least not be scandalized by gross clerical ineptitude. (Pity the shaken folks who noticed their Pesthouse priest had forgotten the consecration at Mass and who afterward had to endure his chastisement from the pulpit for "causing" the defect.) Under our program, emotionally mature priests will land at a chapel ready to hit the ground running.

That will be a nice change of pace, don't you think?


Conferral of the Subdiaconate

How to Say Low Mass and Low Requiem Mass (4 hrs./wk)  Step by step study, modeling, and guided practice of the correct actions, gestures, and postures required for a decent praxis faithful to the rubrics. The subdeacon will also learn how to interpret the traditional ordo.
Review of Moral and Dogmatic Theology (4 hrs./wk.) Systematic review of key concepts studied in the first year's survey courses. The emphasis will be on moral theology for the confessional.
How to Organize and Manage a Successful Catechism Program (1 hr./wk.) Guidance on selecting materials, monitoring instruction, and assessing performance.

Memory Lab (1 hr./wk.) Memorizing the memoriter scienda, the prayers and formulae a priest needs to have learned by heart for the competent administration of the sacraments.

Daily Recitation of the Divine Office (In English)


Conferral of the Diaconate

Independent and Observed Practice Sessions in Saying Low Mass (4 hrs./wk.) The deacon is expected to practice independently the celebration of Low Mass in preparation for a weekly scored observation by a veteran priest or knowledgeable layman.
How to Counsel Couples Intending Marriage (1 hr./wk.) Practical guidance on  preparing for the sacrament of holy matrimony. In particular, the deacon will learn how not to behave.
How to Administer the Sacraments and Sacramentals (3 hrs./wk.)  Baptism. Marriage Ceremony. Visiting the Sick. Last Rites. Conducting Graveside Services. Confirmation. Blessings (with emphasis on blessing holy water).

Memory Lab (1 hr./wk.) Memorizing the memoriter scienda, the prayers and formulae a priest needs to have learned by heart for the competent administration of the sacraments.

Daily Recitation of the Divine Office (In English)


Conferral of the Presbyterate

Analysis and Critique of Mass Daily (7 hrs./wk) The new priest will celebrate Low Mass each day under the supervision and guidance of a veteran priest and/or knowledgeable layman, who will provide feedback.
How to Conduct Holy Week in Small Churches (3 hrs./wk.) The priest will practice how to carry out the ceremonies of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.
How to Hear Confessions (2 hr./wk.) A veteran priest will coach and prepare the new priest to hear confessions and administer the sacrament of penance.
Memory Lab (1 hr./wk.) Memorizing the memoriter scienda, the prayers and formulae a priest needs to have learned by heart for the competent administration of the sacraments.
Daily Recitation of the Divine Office (In English)


Analysis and Critique of Mass Daily (7 hrs./wk.) 
The priest will say Low Mass each day under the supervision of a veteran  priest or a knowledgeable layman, who will provide feedback.
How to Hear Confessions (2 hrs./wk.) A veteran priest will coach and prepare the priest to administer the sacrament of penance. Toward the end of the quarter, the priest will hear confessions.
Mariology (2 hrs./wk.) The science of the person and role of the BVM in her relationship with the Incarnation and Redemption. The priest will especially learn why the manipulative sentimentalism of one infamous Traddie bishop is an impiety.

Memory Lab (1 hr./wk.) Memorizing the memoriter scienda, the prayers and formulae a priest needs to have learned by heart for the competent administration of the sacraments.

Daily Recitation of the Divine Office (In English)

You may have noticed the omission of two subjects: canon law and homiletics.

After almost 50 years, no one knows which canons apply now, and, furthermore, there's no jurisdiction in the Sede Vacante, so consequently there're no judges to consider cases or enforce sanctions. As for sermons, there are plenty of old books with scripted 10-15-minute orthodox, Catholic sermons for every Sunday and holy day of the year. Even some of the more lucid completers use such resources freely. Since we expect that our priests will have full-time jobs in the public or private sectors, they can save precious time by choosing models composed by priests trained in the "good, old days." The faithful will benefit from the excellent content and will no longer have to sit through bewildering, interminable monologues on whatever suits the preacher's fancy that day.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


To make our children capable of honesty is the beginning of education. Ruskin

The first year of our model clerical training program has no frills. Its aim is to present, over a period of four nine-week quarters, the fundamental knowledge a sede priest needs to serve the faithful.  The teaching methodology is unpretentiously vocational and practical. The program is admittedly a series of "crash courses," but the chapel that hires our priests will never have to suffer the undeserved arrogance of ignorant Pesthouse completers who prove by their actions that they haven't the foggiest about acting like a priest. Furthermore, our requirement that entrants be employed will assure that these priests know the value of a dollar and won't be tempted to feather their nests with the laity's nest-eggs. The bottom line is that they'll be honest. In addition, with our priests, there'll be no luxury Southwestern spa vacations at chapel expense.

Our program will never pretend its products are scholars; we will simply certify that our clergy have the basic wherewithal to serve competently as priests under a lay board that controls all assets. That means these men will never have been brainwashed to believe that the clergy (or their front corporations) have a God-given right to all funds and properties.  Another important feature to keep in mind is that the program's  enrollees will have university degrees earned from accredited institutions, which means they'll have been trained to learn efficiently and will retain more because they possess cultural literacy, so two years is just about right. (As an added bonus, these priests will exit our program with an ordination certificate written in correct Latin-- a miniscule benefit, for certain, but one that at least a couple Traddie seminaries can't seem to pull off.)

Before we outline the course of studies, we'd like to say a word about the faculty. The teachers will be both priests and laymen, with more laymen than priests. In fact, as any reader of the Traddie blogosphere knows, there are many lay folks out there who are much better informed on theological matters than a number of the sede bishops and priests we know. Think, for example, of the brilliant John Lane, who has deftly deflated the rector's and Tony's una-cum nonsense. The Traddie world is filled with many such laymen who have made an in-depth study of one or more areas of ecclesiastical learning and who would willingly teach. Having such men and women on the faculty--yes, women: there'll be no mamma's-boy misogynists coming out of our program!--will generate in two years far better priests than the Pesthouse goof-ups who spend five years or so years grinding out clerical meatballs.

But, now, without further comment, here's the first year's curriculum for your review:


Basics of Church Latin (3 hrs./wk.): Word endings. Tense indicators. 250 Most Frequently Used Words.  Pronunciation and Oral Reading Fluency.
Scholastic Concepts and Terminology (4 hrs./wk.): A summary of the language of the scholastic system in preparation for the study of moral and dogmatic theology.
Memory Lab (1 hr./wk.): Memorizing the memoriter scienda, the prayers and formulæ a priest needs to have learned by heart for the competent administration of the sacraments.
Survey of the Old Testament A (2 hrs./wk.) Pentateuch and Historical Books.
Daily Recitation of the Divine Office (in English): no instruction needed since everything is online in immediately usable format.

Conferral of Tonsure at quarter's end.


Moral Theology for the Confessional I (4 hrs./wk.) Nature of Moral Theology: The End of Man and the Norms and Rules to this End. Human Acts. Conscience. Probabilism. Sin. Virtue. 
Dogmatic Theology I (3 hrs./wk.): Religion in General: The Basis of Christian Faith. The Church, her Nature, Marks.
Memory Lab (1 hr./wk.) Memorizing the memoriter scienda, the prayers and formulae a priest needs to have learned by heart for the competent administration of the sacraments.
Latin Oral Reading Fluency Lab (1 hr./wk.) Guided practice in reading aloud the texts of the Missal and the Roman Ritual. 
Survey of the Old Testament B (2 hrs./wk.) The Psalms and Prophetical Books.
Recitation of the Divine Office (in English)

Conferral of Ostiariate at quarter's end.


Moral Theology for the Confessional  II (4 hrs./wk.): The Decalogue: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 8th commandments. Matrimony.
Dogmatic Theology II (3 hrs./wk.) The Sources of Theology: Divine Faith. The One God. The Trinity.
Memory Lab (1 hr./wk.) Memorizing the memoriter scienda, the prayers and formulæ a priest needs to have learned by heart for the competent administration of the sacraments.

Latin Oral Reading Fluency Lab (1 hr./wk.) Guided practice in reading aloud the texts of the Missal and the Roman Ritual. N.B. We expect this module will be skipped by most since our trainees will be college graduates who won't be impeded by the academic skill deficits so common among the underprepared inmates of other sede "seminaries."

Survey of the New Testament A (2 hrs./wk.): The Gospels.
Daily Recitation of the Divine Office (in English)

Conferral of Lectorate at quarter's end.


Moral Theology for the Confessional  III (4 hrs./wk.): The Seventh Commandment: Justice and Rights. The Precepts of the Church. Vocational Obligations. 
Dogmatic Theology III (3 hrs./wk.) The Incarnation: Hypostatic Union. Redemption. Grace. The Mother of God.
Memory Lab (1 hr./wk.) Memorizing the memoriter scienda, the prayers and formulæ a priest needs to have learned by heart for the competent administration of the sacraments.
Survey of the New Testament B (2 hrs./wk.): The Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles
Daily Recitation of the Divine Office (in English)

Conferral of Exorcistate at quarter's end.


Between the first and second year, there will be a supervised summer independent study program to teach candidates how to look up answers to theological questions. (Even in the "good old days," competent priests looked up answers to questions and didn't make up an answer like many sede clergy do nowadays; then even the best seminary education didn't presume the priest remembered or had learned everything: he had to know where to find the answer.) A full bibliography will be provided with extensive practice in researching specific questions. Throughout the summer, trainees will recite the Divine Office daily in English, and at the end of the term there will be a spiritual retreat. Following the retreat will be the Conferral of Acolythate.

Next week, we'll outline the second year course of studies, what we call the "brains of the curriculum." It focuses on the acquisition of the day-to-day skills needed to be a competent priest.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


...use our efforts openly (as they are offered). Vesalius

Last week, prompted by the rector's inability to distinguish between nouns and adjectives, Pistrina announced it had radically changed its position on sede seminary education. Whereas we had once demanded dramatic improvements to content, instruction, and admissions standards, we now acknowledge that reform is impossible, given the inferior general education of the sede puppet masters. Traditionalists must leave it to the SSPX and revisionist Novus Ordites to run seminaries that resemble pre-Vatican-II institutions.

A full-time sede "seminary" is a sinful waste of the laity's money, which could be better spent on beautifying local chapels.* The pesthouse completers, though well fed, are unprepared, unvetted, and malformed, skilled only in demanding more money from the faithful. Many don't even want to serve a chapel and pine for a do-nothing, supervisory post at the pesthouse, where a disproportionate amount of "seminarian's" time is spent on doing household chores, washing dishes, serving food etc. to the neglect of study and spiritual development.

If all sedes really need is clergy to say Mass, hear their confessions, baptize, and bury them, there is a far cheaper and more practical way, which will also give the faithful more and marginally better formed priests than they have at present. Today and in the ensuing two posts, we'll outline a training program that meets Traddies' basic needs -- and saves their bank accounts. To achieve that goal, the course of studies has to be severely cut down to all but the very minimum a sede chapel needs. 

Once we've finished this series, you'll find that what we propose is at least the same as you're getting now from ill-trained pesthouse completers. Indeed, we believe that, in the practical order, it will actually surpass what you have, but we'll let you judge when you hire the men. We've just eliminated all the cant and the hype. And we've faced the music that we'll have to wait for the Restoration for the return of high standards and genuinely formed priests. Meanwhile, let's just supply the fundamental needs of traditional Catholics by producing men who can administer competently the sacraments while not fleecing the sheep. 

Before we uncover a bare-bones curriculum, we'll share three guiding concepts behind our clerical vocational training program, which will distinguish it from the failed training efforts we now find in overly promoted sede "seminaries."

TRAINEE SELECTION. Candidates for the priesthood must be professionally employed, unmarried Catholic adult males of almost any age, who have earned a college degree from an accredited institution of higher learning. This requirement alone will bring about a 100% improvement over the current output of sede "seminaries" -- blank-faced home-schoolers, recently converted Protestants, backward and impossible-to-comprehend aliens, retail-store flunkies, and other assorted sad sacks.

"SEMINARY WITHOUT WALLS" AND MODULAR, PART-TIME INSTRUCTION. Why build a stand-alone "seminary" at great expense (and then rebuild it when it fails inspection owing to incompetent oversight) when you can achieve the same, no-frills result by long-distance learning? Furthermore, why make trainees uproot themselves to live in a weird hell-hole where most of the day is dedicated to scullery work and housecleaning? Why not distill the basic fundamentals needed to be a priest into short-term, competency-based skill modules, driven by formative assessment, and taught over the internet? The savings in resources would be immense, and the outcome the same or better than we're getting now. Trainees can keep their professional jobs and learn in the evenings and on weekends.

ELIMINATION (ALMOST) OF LATIN. Yes, you read correctly. Virtually eliminate Latin! Look, we at Pistrina love Latin, and at one time we had hoped that sedes might be able to mount a truly Latin-language seminary (all theology, sacred scripture, history, and liturgy courses taught from approved Latin manuals, all exams in Latin, all classroom handouts and written lecture summaries in Latin.). But that's not going to happen. Sede clergy aren't up to it. You've got to know Latin well (and we've shown you that they don't).

Under our proposal, trainees will get a crash-course in the rudiments of Latin morphology and syntax -- just enough to decipher a traditional ordo and the key rubrics in the Missal -- a pretty simple skill that many lay sacristans and servers pick up quickly.  In the sede vacante, a priest can get by just fine, thank you, without very much Latin. There are plenty of English translations of good theology manuals and English-language descriptions of the liturgy; the Ritual is available in a fine bilingual edition, and the Breviary in both Latin and English can be found online for use on a smart phone. Everything a pastor of a Traddie chapel would ever need is available in English and often in a very easy-to-understand form. (The completers and their clerical cult masters know this, too, and they take advantage of it, although they don't let on.)
The real emphasis of the Latin module will be on oral reading fluency, i.e., reading aloud quickly and effortlessly Latin liturgical texts. Most of the current crop of clergy would keep a reading therapist employed for a lifetime. Have you ever really listened to these guys when they say Mass? They hesitate, regress, self-correct endlessly, struggle with word groups, omit words, substitute words, insert words, fixate, misplace the stress (even though it's clearly marked), and badly articulate. With all the stammering that goes on at the altar, you'd think the completers were auditioning for the lead role in The King's Speech.
From their phrasing, it's clear, too, the completers don't understand what they're reading, even in the most general way. That probably explains how one grinning clod skipped the consecration at Mass, and it's one of the main reasons for the laity's loss of confidence in these incompetents. Therefore, instead of wasting time with drills that don't work and memorization that doesn't stick, we propose that trainees learn how to read liturgical texts out loud with fluency and ease. Being college graduates will make the task that much easier and shorter. For the faithful, the end result will be so much more edifying than the painfully grating experience they undergo now with celebrants who can't utter three words without a miscue. (We'll also instruct trainees to read over and practice the text before saying Low Mass, blessing religious articles, or conducting a graveside service.)

In next week's post, we'll talk about the faculty and outline the skill sets for the first year of  training.

*When we saw in the August MHT Newsletter a photo of the rector's seminary chapel, we were certain that the poor folks who gave their hard-earned bucks to build it were heartsick. Apart from the altar and candlesticks, the place looks like an abstract-expressionist nightmare with its bare, jaundice-eyllow walls, grim lighting, and ugly square columns rising aggressively from what looks like industrial flooring. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Both of them had failed, the one who had dreamed of love, the other who had dreamed of power. What was the reason for their failure?
"It was, perhaps, the absence of a straight path," said Frédéric.
"For you, that may well be the case. I, on the contrary, sinned through excess of rectitude, without taking into account a thousand secondary things stronger than everything. I had too much logic, and you too much sentiment."
Then they blamed chance, circumstances, the age in which they were born. Flaubert

As we were reading the June MHT Newsletter, we caught a serious, unforced error that got us to rethink completely our position on sede seminary formation. Whereas before we used to lament sede institutions' weak academic standards, today we embrace their manifest limitations.   We know when we're paddling upstream against an overpowering current. 

Consequently, Pistrina now argues that (a) the sede "seminary" curriculum be further streamlined and (b) the training time be shortened to no more than two years of part-time study.

But first...let's look at the newsletter blunder that radically shook our thinking, that made us think the unthinkable.

In a section about a new Novus-Ordo catechism, the rector wrote:
The book which introduces us to this life-altering doctrine...should present itself in the utmost dignity, gravity, sanctity, respect, sacredness, and supernaturality. These very same adjectives [emphasis ours] can be applied to the Church's sacred liturgy and even to her priests and religious.
The big problem here is that the words dignity, gravity, sanctity, respect, sacredness, supernaturality are abstract nounsnot adjectives! The error (which isn't a typo) is bigger than it appears at first glance.

You see, a genuine seminary curriculum is grounded on a thorough mastery of grammar and its terminology. Indeed, a large number of the fundamental notions in scholastic logic, the mastery of which is essential to the fruitful study of philosophy and Thomistic theology, come directly from the art and science of grammar. Logic, grammar, and rhetoric compose the trivium, the three fundamental disciplines of the liberal arts. The trivium pertains to the mind, and its aim is to teach the nature and function of language.*

Consequently, within an authentic Catholic educational context, a "seminary" teacher's confusing these two parts of speech is (if we may so speak) no trivial error. It's an unmistakable sign of a grave deficiency in intellectual preparation. The rector's bumbling pal, Tony the Arch-Blunderer, is forever suggesting that priests are the only ones fit to comment on certain questions because they have supposedly "studied" formal logic.** Well, then, in minor logic, seven of the nine categories of accident are examples of abstract nouns. Therefore, the rector should know the difference between abstract nouns and adjectives, right?

Even if the rector had forgotten (or never learned) the definition of the several parts of speech, he ought to have recognized that four of the nouns in his list ending in the suffix -ty come directly from the Latin abstract nouns dignitas, gravitas, sanctitas, and (super)naturalitas, fairly common words in scholastic theology and philosophy. If he couldn't see that connection and absent a real scholar's understanding of Latin word formation -- viz., words ending in -tās = abstract nouns mostly from adjective-stems -- the plain English suffix -ness should have been clue enough that the words were definitely not adjectives.

Obviously it wasn't.

So, then, that leads us to our main point: in light of this and the other gross blunders Pistrina has exposed, it is senseless for sedes to think that their so-called seminaries can ever mirror pre-Vatican II educational standards. What's going on in sede institutions is pure make believe and bluff. The requisite human capital just isn't there to pull it off.

So why keep pretending?

When you think about it, most sedes just want a priest who possesses undoubtedly valid orders and who can say Mass correctly, hear confessions without ulterior motives or hidden agendas, conduct a decent burial service, confidently administer blessings, and deliver an intelligible, fluent, and spiritually inspiring Sunday sermon. That's it. They don't want to hear about globe-trotting wandering-bishops' excellent adventures, fine-dining capers, internecine struggles within the SSPX, wild theories about una-cum Masses, or the latest crackpot "musings" of intellectually lightweight clergy.

You don't need five to eight years to produce a priest who can meet these modest expectations. As we have documented time and again, five to eight years now isn't producing fit priests. Something's got to change.

In next week's post, we'll outline an effective competency-based, clerical vocational training program to make more priests available to independent, lay-governed chapels.

Our proposal will be shockingly bare bones, and you may be surprised, or perhaps scandalized, at some of our recommendations. However, the rector's gross blunder was too significant, too resonant for us not to revise our views about priestly formation in the face of the woeful ignorance of substandard sede trainers.  

The Traddie formation system cannot be fixed. The sede "seminaries" cannot be reformed. It's too late. They're too far gone.  The laity need to face reality squarely if they wish to preserve a minimum Catholic life until the Restoration.

For years, sede seminary honchos have suffered from what clinical psychologists call "positivity bias" -- the tendency to see oneself as smart regardless of ability. Now, however, these self-deceiving clergy can no longer dupe the laity. They are clearly not the best (as we have shown); they're not even mediocre. They are incapable of producing priests resembling in any but the most superficial way the products of pre-Vatican-II formation.

If you simply must have an authentically formed priest, then you should join an SSPX chapel today and be prepared to weather the coming storms. If, on the other hand, your conscience prohibits the affiliation, then we invite you to consider what we have to say in the coming weeks.

* In the Middle Ages, as Joseph Mullally observed in 1945, the logicians Abelard, John of Salisbury, and Peter of Spain (traditionally identified as Pope John XXI) recognized "the close relationship... between the linguistic structure of grammar and the logical content of thought." The Dominicans Conway and Ashley argued (1959) that St. Thomas's "concept of logic, with grammar understood as a necessary prerequisite" was "identical with the whole trivium."

** He's also claimed that mastery of Latin is another qualification. Yet, as Pistrina has more than amply demonstrated in numerous posts, his Latinity (as well as the rector's) leaves very much to be desired. (See our footnote where the rector used the wrong Latin word for "time" on his pompous seminary schedule or our article exposing the bad Latin of MHT ordination certificates.