Thursday, February 24, 2011

A short history of the Hootenanny Mass & other absurdities... part 16

Letter to Harold “Hoot” and Annie Gibson cont. part 16


A man whose first language was Spanish attended a lecture about the Second Vatican Council, usually called “Vatican Two”. After the talk he asked “Who is this Betty Cantu and why did she write all those documents?” True story.

In recent thrilling episodes we learned all about American exceptionalism. The descendants of the Puritans genuinely believed that God had made them a superior race, entitled, even obliged, to Christianize the world. The 19th century Americans lost their Puritan faith, but somehow managed to retain a belief in their own exceptionalism. American exceptionalism certainly seemed vindicated when, at the end of the Second World War, American armies occupied much of Europe and Asia. Having defeated Hitler and Hirohito, it seemed that America was all that stood between the “free world” and Stalin. At least that’s how we saw it. Much of the world agreed. To be modern was to be American. Elvis Presley, blue jeans and big American cars followed in the wake of the troops. The post-war world fell in love with all things American.

The desire to be fully American and to share in that wonderful “modernness” was certainly a big part of my childhood. I remember the admonitions to patriotism regularly doled out by the Irish nuns who taught me to read and write. The flag hung near the cross in every classroom in my grade school. It was the fifties! Communists were everywhere. To be foreign, to be un-American, was to be dangerous. It was all hula-hoops and plastic covered furniture and modern architecture. My family hadn’t spoken German at home since the First World War. And with the election in 1960 of the most exceptional American, John F. Kennedy, we Catholics were finally as American as could be.

Then the council. Twenty-six hundred bishops attended the council, accompanied by their periti. Periti are theological experts, or so it is claimed. I have heard the Second Vatican council called the council of the periti, because at times it seemed that the periti, not the pope nor bishops were running things. Father, later bishop, Anibale Bugnini was one such peritus. Pope Pius XII appointed him Secretary to the Commission for Liturgical Reform, so he was a natural to head the committee for the reform of the Catholic liturgy during and after the Second Vatican Council.

In 1964, Pope Paul VI named Bugnini Secretary of the Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Liturgy, usually just called “the consilium.” Bugnini was certainly a special kind of Catholic priest. I doubt that he would have been at all uncomfortable during the French Enlightenment. Bugnini’s secretary, Abbot Boniface Luykx reports that “Bugnini once told Archbishop Malula (Cardinal Archbishop of Kinshasa,Congo) that the norm for the liturgy and for Church renewal is modern Western man, because he is the perfect man, and the final man, and the everlasting man, because he is the perfect and normative man.... adapting to Western culture is the great work in Church liturgical reform and renewal, and in theology, and in all other aspects of Church life... Secularization was, for him, a necessary process, something the Church needed to accept and embrace... He held to the modern philosophical view that man is made without God, and does not need God.”

Regarding his plans for the reform of the Mass, he was quoted by the Vatican newspaper, “L’Osservatore Romano,” as saying “We must strip... from the Catholic Liturgy everything which can be a shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren... the Protestants.” So ecumenical were Bugnini and the spirit of the times that six Protestant clerics helped rewrite the Mass of the Catholic liturgy. Enough Catholic theology was removed from the Mass that Brother Max Thurian (one of the six consultants) believed that Protestants could use the text without difficulty. Bugnini reasoned that, if Protestants said that Mass was not a real sacrifice, then we would just have to agree with that. We should take all the words out of the Rosary that are not from the Bible. Pope Paul responded, in effect, “Are you out of your mind?” The first versions of the reformed Mass were such radical departures from Catholic tradition that they were refused by the pope and the bishops. Words referring to the sacrificial nature of the Mass were reintroduced and the texts were finally published.

Another important conciliar idea: collegiality. Collegiality has always been part of Catholic teaching, but was emphasized by the council. It is the idea that bishops share responsibility for governing the Church with the pope, but always in submission to the papal authority. The idea was not new, but the encouragement of Episcopal conferences was new. (These are national or regional bishops’ conferences. They have nothing to do with the Episcopalian Church. At least they aren’t meant to.)

A new Mass and collegiality! At the time it felt like the Church was catching up with the times and that the superior American form of government, democracy, had at long last arrived, or even returned to the Church. After all, scholars and liturgists regularly told us that we were simply returning to the practices of the early Church. The council was just scraping off the medieval barnacles that weighed down the bark of Peter. We were going back to the Church as Jesus had planned it, before popes and stuffy rules and boring liturgies. Wait... we’ve heard this all before! It was called the Reformation!


PS No one should think that I don’t like or approve of the Pauline liturgy (the Mass that most of us go to on Sunday). When it is done by the book, it is really very beautiful. It is the silliness of the improvisers that I am trying to explain. The so called “New Mass” is Mass, as is the so called “Old Mass.” The Holy Spirit knows what he is doing despite all the loons who say that the current Mass and the present popes are not valid. I believe that in the Second Vatican council, the Holy Spirit anticipated a world that we did not even imagine. Who of us in 1960 could have imagined cell phones and personal computers and E-mail? The problem is not and never was the council. The problem is the vultures who used the “Spirit of Vatican II” as a smoke screen for their own arrogance and sometimes for their own immorality. But what about Bugnini and that crowd? Remember the Biblical principal that God works all things for the good, though we might not understand that good at the time. As Joseph said to his brothers. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen 50:20) Pope Benedict seems to be in the process for “reforming the reform.” It is the height of arrogance to say, as many aging progressives do, that the Pauline Mass is untouchable. As we look back on both the successes and the failures of the post conciliar era, we need to be honest with ourselves.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A short history of the Hootenanny Mass & other absurdities... part 15

Letter to Harold “Hoot” and Annie Gibson cont. part 15


Why, pray tell, are you digging up this ancient history about a war fought more than a century ago? What can this possibly have to do with the Hootenanny Mass? Well, it isn’t as ancient as you might think! When I was a boy, in the groovy sixties and early seventies, an impressionable lad in a Jesuit University, I had a Latin course with old Fr. Mertz. I loved the class. He didn’t talk about Latin very much. He mostly talked about how he hated stinking pigeons. “Flying rats!” He called them. Occasionally he would take a shotgun to the roof of the tallest building on campus, Metrz Hall, KABOOM! There would be a shower of feathers and pigeons falling from the sky, like quail in the book of Exodus. He was not going to let pigeons roost on HIS building. It was a college dorm and when he found out what went on in that building, it being the early seventies, he wanted his name taken off it. No luck. It is Mertz Hall to this day. Where was I? Oh, yes. When he was not complaining about student debauchery and stinking pigeons, he would reminisce about the Spanish American War, and how grand it was to be a boy in such an heroic era. It was not that long ago.

The Spanish American War, so called, launched America onto the world stage. The few who opposed the war and subsequent empire went unheard by those who believed in the destiny of America was to civilize and Protestantize the world. Empire is deeply embedded in the American consciousness. Already, in the 1780s, Thomas Jefferson, awaited the collapse of the Spanish empire: “...‘til our population can be sufficiently advanced to gain it from them piece by piece.” He also wrote that, “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government,” and, “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.” Jefferson, who never freed any of his own slaves, even in his last will, wrote our Declaration of Independence. He longed for an “Empire for Liberty”. What emerged was an empire for slavery. The Mexican government welcomed American settlers into Texas, but required them to swear allegiance to the Mexican constitution of 1824 and practice the Catholic Faith. This meant that they could not own slaves. The Americans who emigrated into Mexican Texas soon revolted, not so much for their liberty but for the right to keep their slaves. The independence of Texas soon led to the Mexican-American War and the annexation of the United State of almost half of Mexico.

Thomas Jefferson’s name sake, United States Senator Jefferson Davis, later President of the Confederate States of America, introduced an amendment to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to annex most of northeastern Mexico. It was not passed into law. Davis also said, “Cuba must be ours... to increase the number of slave-holding constituencies.” So we had cast covetous eyes on Cuba and its millions of potential slaves half a century before we took it. Catholicism and the United States were on a collision course from the Puritan beginnings and things escalated to real bloodshed in the first part of the 19th century.

It is hard to believe that anti-Catholicism was one of the founding principals of this country, but anti-Catholicism is woven into the fabric of the nation. Few know that the Catholicism of Quebec is one of the reasons that the Protestant colonies left the British Empire. The Continental Congress, the founding assembly of the nation, wrote King George, protesting the Quebec Act of 1774 which allowed Quebec to remain Catholic though conquered by Protestant England. Here is a quote from the Continental Congress’ letter to King George, “(French Catholics are) fit instruments in the hands of power, to reduce the ancient free Protestant Colonies to the same state of slavery with themselves. This was evidently the object of the Act:—And in this view, being extremely dangerous to our liberty and quiet, we cannot forbear complaining of it, as hostile to British America...Nor can we suppress our astonishment that a British Parliament should ever consent to establish in that country a religion that has deluged your island in blood, and dispersed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder and rebellion through every part of the world.” The statement sounds like it was written yesterday by those who hate the Church for her opposition to abortion, and the other moral hot button issues of our time, I can hear a few of my more progressive friends saying “Amen! Preach it brother!” at the words, “blood (shed)...bigotry, persecution, murder.”

Virulent anti-Catholicism has never left American politics, from then until now. By means of the invasion of Mexico, the government of the United States extended slavery into Catholic lands where it was already forbidden. Slavery was abolished by Hidalgo in 1810, and was formally abolished after the revolution in 1821. As the beginnings of empire stirred America, anti-foreign and anti-Catholic sentiment continued to grow. The American Party, better known as the “Know Nothings” because of their secrecy, was a reaction to German and Irish Catholic immigrants.

The movement originated in New York in 1843 and soon spread to the rest of the country. In 1836, the publication of Maria Monk's “Awful Disclosures of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery in Montreal.” It told of the lascivious conduct of Catholic nuns. It was a runaway best seller even though it was shown to be pure fabrication shortly after publication. The civil war saw a lessening of formal attempts to restrict Catholicism in the US. Catholic immigrants fought on both sides of the conflict, and people who had never met a Catholic in their lives found themselves in the trenches with them and saw no visible evidence of horns, cloven hooves or tails. But the prejudice continued. The Ku Klux Klan renewed anti-Catholicism in the 1920s. In 1929, my parents were married in Little Flower, Catholic Church in 1929 built in 1925 in Royal Oak, Michigan, a Protestant suburb of Detroit. Two weeks after it opened, the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross on the church lawn.

I grew up surrounded by anti-Catholicism. My Aunt converted to Catholicism when she married my Uncle back in 1930. Her Aunt Olivia never quite forgave her. I remember Aunt “Ollie” explaining to me that nuns were at the “service” (remember it’s a family column) of priests who entered convents via secret tunnels. If a child resulted, it was baptized and then promptly strangled and buried in the aforementioned tunnels. In my old age, I discovered that this is an exact quote from Maria Monk’s bestseller. In 1960, I was being fed a line of anti-Catholic drivel written in 1836.

Catholic were inferior beings in the Chicago suburb where I grew up. Jews were not welcome at all and Catholics were merely looked down on. I was not allowed into the home of the family across the street because I was a Catholic. I remember my friend going in to get a glass of water. I couldn’t come in, because I was Catholic, but I could wait and he would be out in a few minutes. I have vague memories of his congregationalist mother once weakening and bringing me some cookies and lemonade out on the sidewalk. That was in 1955. In 1955, there were still enough jerks around to make a child feel less because of his religious affiliation. Can you imagine what four hundred years of cookies on the sidewalk did to the American Catholic consciousness? It made eating the cookies inside seem really important.

American exceptionalism flowered in the first and then the second world wars. We were cowboys to the rescue, then we went on to rescue Korea and then Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia and Lebanon and Granada, with a valiant attempt to get some other people to rescue Cuba, then we changed our minds, and then we decided to rescue Kuwait and Iraq and now we are rescuing Afghanistan. But in 1960, we were fresh from rescuing Europe and South Korea, and we could do no wrong and America was the envy of the world, or so we thought.

We Catholic Americans had finally arrived when Joe Kennedy finally triumphed. His boy, Jack, was elected the first Catholic president of the United States. The Boston Brahmins would have to let us into their country clubs now! I was 10 years old in 1960. John Kennedy was President and John XXIII was pope and he had just called for an Ecumenical council. To be American and Catholic was to be on the top of the heap. The future was going to be wonderful. Perhaps now the neighbors would invite me to eat my cookies inside instead of on the sidewalk. To be both American and Catholic was no longer a problem. was as exceptional as any red blooded American!

We had been the Catholic Church in America. Now people talked about the American Church. Three years later, both pope and president would be dead, but by then we were acceptable. American Catholicism and American exceptionalism had somehow fallen in love in those three years. That acceptance had come at a fearful price that few noticed at the time. The old Puritan prejudices died hard. It was doubted that a Catholic could be elected president of this Protestant nation. John Kennedy tackled the problem head on in his address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association on Sep 12, 1960. He said “I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters; and the church does not speak for me. Whatever issue may come before me as President, if I should be elected, on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject, I will make my decision... in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise. But if the time should ever come -- and I do not concede any conflict to be remotely possible -- when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do likewise.”

He won the election. So a Catholic could be elected if he promised that he would follow his conscience, but not his faith. He said that he happened to be Catholic. Therein lies the problem. He happened to be Catholic. I do not happen to be Catholic. I choose to be Catholic, because I think it is the truth.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A short history of the Hootenanny Mass & other absurdities... part 14

Letter to Harold “Hoot” and Annie Gibson cont. part 14


There was a battle royal in America during the 19th Century, and I don’t mean the Civil War. It was fought between the German Catholic clergy and the Irish Catholic Clergy. Germans had been emigrating to the Americas since the 1680's, but the great immigration started in earnest after the American revolution. In the 1700's, the largest export of Hesse was its sons, in the form of mercenary soldiers. Georg von Braunschwieg-Lueneburg, King of England, (You may have heard of him referred to as George III) hired the Hessians to help him stamp out the “Presbyterian Revolt” in America. The Presbyterians won, and a lot of us Hessians decided to stay in America. Nice place. No hereditary nobility. Lots of free land vacated by friendly Indians.

Hessians went back home and told the rest of us and we started coming over. Around 1830, my family started emigrating to Detroit, a nice little French town. There had been a Catholic Church there since 1701. Things really picked up after the failed revolution of 1848. That’s when my great-great grandpa, Johann von Schmalzegau came to Cincinnati (Zinzinati, as Grandma called it) where he drank himself to death. (Have you ever BEEN to Cincinnati?) In 1866, my mother’s grandfather left Hesse and moved to Detroit in order to dodge the draft. Otto von Bismarck, mastermind of the modern German state, and inspiration for the jelly doughnut, was quickly taking over Germany and whenever a boy in grandma’s village turned draft age, he got on a boat, said goodbye to the new Deutschland and went to work with Uncle Anton in the furniture business in Amerika. From 1830 to about 1900, my people left the old country, draft dodger by draft dodger. Germans were as likely to be Protestant as Catholic, and the Puritans’ descendants thought them close enough to the “Anglo-Saxon Race” not to mind them. The IRISH! Now that was a different matter.

Irish Catholics were hardly Anglo-Saxon. They started coming over around 1820 and then during the Great Famine, largely engineered by the English, It was emigrate or die. In a population of perhaps 8 million, one million died and one million left for “Amerikee.” They were desperately poor and desperately Catholic and were given the most menial of jobs, but they spoke English. Their votes were courted by the politicians of New York and Boston and community leaders who could get out the vote were rewarded with political jobs. The Boston Brahmins sneered at them, but needed them. They were good enough to be the cops on the beat, but not good enough to join the country club. Irish, as the saying went, “need not apply”. There is another saying: “Forbidden fruits are sweetest.”

Poor Catholic laborers longed for the standard of living that their Protestant neighbors enjoyed. Catholics were excluded from most labor organizations. If a poor Catholic worker wanted to join a fraternal organization he had to join a Protestant one, if they would let him in. It was precisely this situation that prompted the Venerable Fr. Michael McGivney to found the Knights of Columbus, as a mutual aid society. When the breadwinner of a family died, as often happened under the difficult conditions to which the Irish immigrants were exposed, his widow and children ended up on the street. McGivney wanted to provide a way for them to have some security in a country that cared little for them. K. of C. was a Catholic alternative.

Meanwhile, as the Irish and other non-Protestant, “lesser races” crowded into east coast slums, the Puritan “City on a Hill” was discovering American Exceptionalism and its manifest destiny.

American Exceptionalism is the belief that the United States is qualitatively different, superior to other nations. After the Civil War, Americans liked to think that the best of Anglo-Saxon England had come to America with the Puritans. The Anglo-Saxon “race”, tracing itself back to the freedom loving Germanic tribes that had defeated decadent Rome would bring about the (Protestant) Christian Millennium. America was, after all, the city on a hill. American social Darwinists loved this nonsense. In 1885, Josiah Strong wrote “Our Country” in which he justified U.S. imperialism by referring to Charles Darwin and the Bible. Strong, a Protestant clergyman, claimed that the Anglo-Saxon race, that is America, was destined to bring Christianity to the world. Thus, American imperialism was a religious duty! Back in Mother England Rudyard Kipling wrote “Take Up the White Man’s Burden” in 1899 and subtitled it, “the United to Take up the White Man's burden--Send forth the best ye breed--Your new-caught sullen peoples,(Filipino Catholics) Half devil and half child... slowly (lead them) toward the light.... (They may ask) Why brought ye us from bondage, Our loved Egyptian night?.. The silent sullen peoples.... Shall weigh your God and you.” It seems rather clear that as far as Rudyard was concerned God was Protestant and the Devil was Catholic.

Teddy Roosevelt and his friends believed all this nonsense wholeheartedly but worried that the Anglo-Saxon race was being diluted by the influx of inferiors. What was needed was a nice, victorious war to restore America’s Anglo-Saxon “virility.” The remnants of the Spanish Empire were nearby. War became an inevitability. We call it the Spanish American War, but in fact, it started as the War of Cuban Independence and was hijacked by a bunch of Harvard grads (and a smattering of men from Yale, Dartmouth and Brown). Cuban hopes for independence were used to extend the American Empire to the Philippines, Guam, Cuba and Puerto Rico. Men like Teddy Roosevelt and William Randolph Hurst, Harvard men both, incessantly beat the drums of war. President McKinley, not a Harvard man, had originally been opposed to the war, but in the words of John Hay, (Brown University, Rhode Island) Ambassador to England, it was “such a splendid little war.” He joined the war faction.

After it was all over, McKinley paced the White House halls, worried about what he was going to do with all these non-white, non-Protestant millions that had suddenly become the responsibility of the United States. He told a group of Methodist ministers, “I am not ashamed to tell you, I fell to my knees...and prayed...for light and guidance...One night late, it came to me...There was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos and uplift them and Christianize them.” And that applied to Guam, Puerto Rico and Cuba. It never occurred to McKinley that those lesser peoples had been Christian for four centuries, heirs to a Spanish Catholic Tradition that went back to the first century. When the Anglo-Saxons had been painting themselves blue and chasing around the forests of Germany with pointy sticks, the founders of the Christianity of these distant places were already believers. The war was religious as well as military. Protestants focally divided Puerto Rico among their different denominations and influenced government policy until the 1940's. Though less formally, the same theological invasion arrived in the Philippines and Cuba.

At the same time, the struggle for dominance in the Catholic Church in America was going strong and the Irish were winning. No one wanted to be as American as the Irish Bishops of the late nineteenth century. In order to be accepted in the New World, they embraced American Exceptionalism, or as Pope Leo called it, the “Americanist Heresy.”

We Catholics believe in the religious authority of the Bishop of Rome and the universal humanity of all people. For us there are no master races. In 1899, Pope Leo XIII condemned Americanism in his encyclical Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae. “We are not able to give approval to... “Americanism.” There can be no...doubt that...the bishops of America, would be the first to repudiate.. (Americanism) ...For it would give rise to the suspicion that there are... some who...would have the Church in America to be different from what it is in the rest of the world...the true Church is one, as by unity of doctrine, so by unity of government.. Wherefore, if anybody wishes to be considered a real Catholic, he ought to.. be able to say...the words which Jerome addressed to Pope Damasus, bound in fellowship...with the chair of Peter. I know that the Church was built upon him as its rock, and that whosoever gathereth not with you, scattereth.”

America at the time was full of societies; fraternal orders, new religious movements, self-betterment clubs, and the temperance movement. Catholics had always shied away from such groups in Europe, but in America things were different. If the Church banned participation in civic organizations it would seem undemocratic and to ban membership in the temperance movement would bring charges of “Rum, Romanism and Ruin”, especially among the Irish who had been unjustly labeled by the Puritan establishment. The Germans saw no need for temperance unions. After all, Germans don’t drink that much, do they? The Irish tended to embrace these movements, but the Germans, in addition to their respect for beer, also had a language issue. To lose the German language would be to lose German culture. So German Catholics fought to have German parishes and schools that used the sweet, musical German language. Germans were increasingly relegated to second class status as the Irish bishops “Americanized” the Church. The German clergy petitioned Rome to strengthen ethnic parishes in large cities and to assign parishioners to the church of their particular ethnicity. The Irish American bishops lobbied against these requests and Rome initially seemed to side with Americanization.

Archbishop John Ireland of St. Paul, Bishop John Keane of Richmond and Cardinal James Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore, the only Cardinal in America at the time, were some of the leaders of the Americanist movement. While touring France, Ireland said “The Church in Europe is asleep.” and “The people is king now!” Ireland also thought Eastern Rite Catholics un-American. In 1891, Ireland refused to allow Greek-Catholic priest Alexis Toth, to minister to his flock even though Toth had jurisdiction from his own Bishop. Ireland wanted to expel all Eastern Catholic clergy from the United States. Another ally of the Americanists, Msgr. Denis O'Connell wrote to Archbishop Ireland in 1898, that the Spanish “greasers” lives are not worth those of the Americans fighting them in Cuba. O’Connell also called for the closing of convents and monasteries in our newly conquered possessions, because religious orders had done nothing for the advancement of religion.

With the help of O’Connell, the Americanist movement had a lasting influence on Catholic scholarship. The Catholic University was founded by the Americanist bishops Spalding, Ireland and Keane. Rome gave its approval in 1887, thanks to Ireland and Keane, who had gone to Rome to lobby. With Monsignor, later bishop, Denis O'Connell as rector of the North American College in Rome, soon to be rector of The Catholic University of America, the Americanists influenced the pastoral and theological future of the Church in America.

The Americanist Heresy was soon forgotten, but the harm was done. The ground was ready for the perfect storm of modernism, ecumenism, and Annibale Bugnini. (Did he say ecumenism? What’s wrong with Ecumenism?)


Friday, February 4, 2011

A short history of the Hootenanny Mass & other absurdities... part 13

Letter to Harold “Hoot” and Annie Gibson cont. part 13


Let us summarize. The English Puritans came to America with a lot of baggage:
Henry VIII opened the English Door to Calvin and Luther and their Puritan followers. Luther taught the Puritans, “Bible alone, Faith alone, Grace without works, predestination, or once saved always saved. Mass is not a sacrifice. It is a meal made for the instruction and consolation of the faithful.” Calvin taught them, “The individual inspired by the Holy Spirit needs no pope, nor priest nor bishop to interpret the Bible. The individual inspired by the Holy Spirit is sufficient for the interpretation of the Bible. Each individual congregation is the Church and can govern itself, hence Congregationalism. The congregation, being the Church, elects its own ministers. Man is totally corrupt, but the chosen are chosen, to hell, literally, with the rest of humanity.

With these high ideals 20,000 or 30,000 Puritans left old England for New England. If Catholic means universal, Puritanism was anti-Catholic to its core. Puritans fled England and its established Church which they considered too Catholic. And so they came to America to found, “the city on the hill”, in the words of their first governor, John Winthrop. That hill was Beacon Hill in Boston. The descendants of the Puritans established themselves as the aristocracy of New England, the Boston “Brahmins”, Yankee’s are upper class families with an exclusive life style, accent and alma mater: Harvard University (or as they call it Haaavuhd.) There are southern counterparts like the First Families of Virginia but remember they lost round four of the English Civil War, which they called the War of Northern Aggression (You may have heard it referred to as the Civil War.)

Harvard, established in 1636 at the height of the Great Puritan Migration to New England, was named for its first benefactor, the Puritan pastor, John Harvard. It is interesting to note that Harvard University is the first corporation chartered in this country. It is in fact more than a century older than this country. Harvard boasts a long list of this country’s leaders, Among them, George W. Bush and his cousin, Barak Obama, who attended the school founded by his Pilgrim ancestors, and of course John, Bobby and Teddy Kennedy attended. Although it was never formally affiliated with a church, at its beginning and for a long time there after, the college primarily trained Congregationalist and Unitarian clergy. As the 18th and 19th centuries rolled on, Harvard became increasingly secular and yet somehow remained Puritan. It produces a kind of Puritanism without God. In fact, it sometimes seems entirely purified of the divine presence.

Some interesting comparisons: Harvard has 691 acres in three campuses. The Vatican has 110 acres. So Harvard is 6 times larger than the Vatican. The Vatican employs about 3,500 people, Harvard has about 21,000 students and about 11,000 employees... And now here’s the kicker: the Vatican, at least in 2007, had a surplus of $10 million dollars. ($10,000,000) Harvard has an endowment of $27.4 Billion ($27,400,000,000) so in a certain sense, Harvard is 2,740 times richer than the pope. Next time someone says to me why doesn’t the pope do more to help the poor, just say, “Maybe Harvard could kick in a little..”

Where was I? Oh yes, the City on the Hill. This Puritan Paradise was threatened beginning in 1820 with an immigration of Irish that swelled to a flood during the potato famine of the 1840's. Signs proliferated “Irish need not apply.” The Puritans had fled the very taint of Catholicism in England and here was Catholicism flooding in to the stronghold of Puritan Protestantism. The Irish Catholics, needless to say, were about as welcome as lice. The young aristocrats of Beacon Hill and their poor Irish neighbors enjoyed frequent street fights well into the 20th century.

Not all Catholics wanted to battle the Puritans. Some wanted to join their country clubs. There arose in the last half of the 1800's a heresy called Americanism. Many Catholics bought into the myth of the “city on the hill” -- American exceptionalism, the belief that somehow America was a nation founded by the direct intervention of Heaven, different and better than other nations, and bound to bring its democratic revolution to all the world. The more ambitious of the Irish Catholics of Boston longed for nothing more than admittance into New England, none more so than the grandson of a poor immigrant, Joseph P. Kennedy, Catholic, banker, statesman, bootlegger, philanderer, and, of course, Harvard graduate. Kennedy broke into the American aristocracy by supporting the bluest of the blue bloods, Franklin D. Roosevelt in his run for President in 1932 . Kennedy raised quite a bit of money for Roosevelt’s campaign, and in turn received an appointment as the Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, though he had wanted a cabinet position for his troubles. When asked why he had hired such a crook, Roosevelt replied, “Takes one to catch one.”

In 1938, Roosevelt appointed Kennedy ambassador to England. In Boston he was still regarded an outsider, but in England he was the grand man. Imagine, the grandson of a potato farmer from county Wexford in southern Ireland being presented at court! Joe Kennedy’s daughter, Kathleen, married the Duke of Devonshire, and joined the Kennedys of Wexford to one of England's most aristocratic families. It was nice, but it still wasn’t as good as being welcomed into the parlors of the mansions on Beacon Hill in Boston. If he could get one of his sons elected President of the United States, that would show them. His eldest son was killed in the war, but there was still Jack. In the 1952 senate race, John F. Kennedy successfully defeated Henry Cabot Lodge, heir to one of the most prestigious Puritan names in Boston. It is interesting to note that Henry Cabot Lodge’s grandfather had rebuked John F. Kennedy’s grandfather for a vote in the state senate that favored immigrants. Lodge said to Kennedy that “Jews and Italians had no right to this country,” and by implication, neither did the Irish Catholics. Well, when Joe got his son John elected president of the United States, the Kennedys had arrived, by hook or by crook, and there was a great deal of crook. Jack Kennedy said that his father had asked him the exact number of votes he would need to win because there “was no way I’m paying for a landslide.” Everyone mistakenly thought JFK was joking. Some joke. The family called in quite a few favors to win that election. Their Hollywood connections roped in Frank Sinatra who, in turn, roped in some of his friends in Chicago. “Hizzoner da Mare” as we say in Chicago (Mayor Richard J. Daley) was also very helpful in winning Illinois which along with Texas gave Kennedy the electoral college. Everything was done that had to be done to win the presidency for Jack and aristocracy for the family. And one thing that was done touches directly on the Hootenanny Mass.

Kennedy's Catholicism was a problem for the Puritans he wanted to govern and whose ranks his father so wanted to join politically and socially. JFK assured the Greater Houston Ministerial Association on September 12, 1960, “I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party candidate for President who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters, and the Church does not speak for me.” In other words, Kennedy could be one thing politically and another spiritually, and that compromise brought Catholicism into the mainstream of American life, or did it bring Puritan America into the heart of the Catholic Church?

By the way, about baked beans. It is theorized that Boston baked beans were a meal that could be made before the Sabbath and the Godly Puritan housewives of Boston could feed their families a hot, nourishing meal without violating their principles. There may not have been gold at the end of the immigration rainbow, but there were Puritan beans. Give me Italian Catholic food any day.