Avoid Work of Human Hands unless you want to drive someone screaming as far away from Traditionalism as they can get.
Huh? How would WoHH do that? I found it to be a very thorough scholarly work, and quite impressive. What did you find bad about it?
Scholarly? Umm...ok. Others have a different opinion, which may or may not be correct. This blog is written by several (?) disaffected ex-parishioners of Fr. Cekada so take it with a grain of salt. I've not seen anyone point out any glaring errors in it, however. Indeed, the only errors would appear to be in the good Father's book itself. It would take awhile, but I think the book is pretty much destroyed by the time one finishes reading all the relevant posts.http://www.pistrinaliturgica.blogspot.com/2010/12/poor-little-overmatched-churl.html
Thursday, December 2, 2010
THE POOR LITTLE OVERMATCHED CHURL
“Ak! en lille Svovlstikke kunde gjøre godt.” (Oh! A little match could do well.)
Hans Christian Andersen
Ed. Note: The Reader loves a teary, holiday tale of an impoverished waif's affliction and ultimate redemption as well as the next mawkish sentimentalist. This post, you’ll be happy to learn, isn’t such a story. It’s a radical excision of the cockamamie assertion that Work of Human Hands has, or even could have, offered an authoritative contribution to the discussion of the Pauline reform. It’s also a corrective against the froward endeavor of the book's promoters to convince the Catholic world that Providence erred when it assigned to an ill-schooled outsider an excruciatingly modest role in life. The spectacle is pitiful, but it elicits our sense of dread and distaste, not our sympathy.
From Reader #1
Supporter or adversary alike will concur that Pistrina Liturgica has by now nullified the delusional notion that Work of Human Hands is scholarly. We will now demythologize any claim the book's fawning entourage might advance for its author's possessing liturgical expertise. Our analysis is based on the scientific research of K. Anders Ericsson and others, who have closely studied expert performance. It will become plain how no one in the academic world (including the isolated outcasts and feral interlopers on its periphery) can ever acknowledge the author as an expert. In addition, it will be clear that in this lifetime, the author can never attain the expertise that his claque undeservedly imputes to him, for he never enjoyed what Malcolm Gladwell calls "accumulative advantage."
The Science of Human Expertise
Ericsson's research informs us that experts are made, not born, after years of intense, deliberate practice and systematic training by determined, well-informed teachers, who are world-class achievers themselves. At a minimum, it takes about 10 years or 10,000 hours of sacrifice, effort, and self-awareness to become, say, a chess master or virtuoso musician. The practice must be highly concentrated and informed by coaching, both external (an “unsentimental” teacher) and internal (the self-driving “inner coach”). Furthermore, deliberate practice means stretching oneself to do something that is beyond one’s range. It's a continual effort to eliminate weakness and to avoid easy, automatic responses and “creeping intuition bias.” Another researcher on human expertise, M. L. Germain, has defined several behavioral dimensions of objective expertise, among which are discipline-specific knowledge, formal education, qualifications, and training to be an expert.
An Elemental Education
Savvy business executives and responsible public agencies use the fruits of human-expertise studies to evaluate candidates for employment and proposals for contract work. As Catholics—traditional, sedevacantist, or Novus Ordite—we have as great a stake in assuring that we have genuine experts as does a Fortune 500 company. Therefore, let’s apply these scientifically established principles to Fr. Cekada’s vita to see whether he’s up to our high expectations or overmatched by the complexities of the question and his irremediable preparation.
We’ll address the training issue first. From public sources (e.g., Wikipedia) and his own disclosures to our informants, Cekada graduated in 1973 from a Wisconsin diocesan seminary with a credential in theology. After a spell with the Cistercians, he studied for two years at the SSPX seminary in Écône, Switzerland, until his ordination in 1977, whereupon he returned to the U.S. as a seminary teacher.
Those of us of a certain age know that Catholic educational standards headed into a precipitous decline just before 1969. According to the Wisconsin seminary’s website, it even began offering degrees to laymen in the ’70s, so you can imagine that the curriculum was much adulterated during Cekada’s early formative years. Moreover, as Fr. Cekada has openly remarked, his vocal traditionalism antagonized seminary officials. Arguably, then, it’s highly improbable that he would have been afforded the kind of dedicated coaching required to prepare the career of an expert in the liturgy. Furthermore, in the '70s, the authorities were working overtime to erase from memory any trace of the Tridentine rite: Jungmann’s antiquarian The Early Liturgy, not his Missarum Sollemnia, was all the rage.
During his short two-year stint at Écône, seminarian Cekada would have been busy taking a slate of required courses in a foreign language that he was still trying to learn, so there would have been little time to begin specializing in the liturgy. In fact, at the time, well-informed sources say that the Écône liturgy was a hodgepodge of the new and old. Indeed, former seminarians from that time report that formal study of liturgy was not a high priority: The society's emphasis was on producing priests, not liturgists. Moreover, although Cekada attended the lectures of Guérard des Lauriers, it’s almost a certainty than the learned Dominican would have lavished his attentions on academic stars like the well-bred, urbane, confidently multilingual, and Cambridge-educated (now Bishop) Richard Williamson (ordained 1976), and not upon a parvenu.*
The Lost Decades
From 1979 to the present, Fr. Cekada spent his days in pastoral and administrative work with several chapels, wrote occasional short articles and tracts on sundry sedevacantist themes, initiated some noisy—and self-destructive—controversies (e.g., Leonine prayers, Feeneyism, the Schiavo case), dabbled on the edges of canon law, journeyed monthly to teach a course or two at a tiny traditionalist “seminary,” and actively participated in several building projects. There’s no disputing that his has been an active life, but not the kind of life that produces a disciplinary expert. First, there must have been no time to enroll in graduate school or undergo the daily, concentrated, sustained, specific, and deliberate practice required to satisfy the 10,000-Hour-Rule. Second, he had no universally recognized disciplinary expert to coach him regularly over the years. Moreover, his reactionary** ecclesiology coupled with the absence of formal training rendered him an untouchable in the world community of liturgical scholarship. In this respect, he’s always been the eternal other, a liturgical home-aloner. And as Gladwell mordantly observed, "No one ... ever makes it alone."
To be sure, during these years, Fr. Cekada did some reading and undoubtedly acquired a fair library on the subject. However, deliberate practice, correctly understood, means more than reading, even if the reading is attentive, painstaking, reflective, and thorough. Reading is only preparatory for intense, reflective, and systematic practice, coaching, and training. Admittedly, Cekada became more informed about the liturgy and the Pauline reform than the average American traditionalist Catholic priest, but he simply could not have become an expert under the circumstances of his life. From his self-reported humble origins to his unanchored and restless maturity, the opportunities just weren’t there.
Another Fly in the (self-an)Ointment
Even had Fr. Cekada been able to spare at least 10,000 hours over a 10-year period for deliberate practice in liturgiology, he still couldn’t have emerged an expert. Liturgics, unlike playing chess or the organ, is a multidisciplinary study, which demands solid background knowledge of other disciplines, especially sacred languages (Latin, Greek, Hebrew [and Syriac, perhaps]), comparative linguistics, history and sociology, paleography, textual criticism, theology (post-graduate level), anthropology, and archeology. Pistrina has already demonstrated how ill equipped he is in Latin, the sine qua non for Roman-rite liturgical scholarship. If he couldn’t find the time to master Latin, then he wouldn’t have had the time to acquire the other content areas.
The Bottom Line
Work of Human Hands is the stillborn issue of a neglected intellectual orphan, who has not been able, even in a little way, to match insufficient endowments to an outsized, unwarranted hankering for admission into the exclusive circle of legitimate scholars. The author can never measure up: time, nature, and background will not allow it. Work of Human Hands, in spite of an occasional insight here and there, has no value for the serious student of the Pauline reform. Anyone who endorses this assortment of blunders has lost his way. The book is decidedly not "magisterial": it is pedestrian. It is no magnum opus; it's a maestum onus, a sorry load — of squealing mistakes and thoroughgoing amateurism. Thanksgiving's over: time to throw out this turkey of a tome.
*The following anecdotes will be helpful in assessing Anthony Cekada’s actual relationship as a pupil with Fr. Guérard des Lauriers, who taught dogma: (1) Even seminarians with a very good comprehension of spoken French confide that the learned Dominican, owing to his advancing age, was very difficult to understand in the mid 1970s. (2) At the meeting of April 27, 1983, just before the expulsion of the Nine from the SSPX, Cekada was one of two priests who asked permission to speak to Archbishop Lefebvre in English; other, more educated Americans translated for him.
**Pistrina does not use this word in a pejorative sense. We are admiring readers of Nicolás Gómez Dávila; Readers often have occasion to quote his aphorism escritor sin talento; eunuco enamorado (Notas, p. 433, 2003 edition).
Posted by The Reader at 4:12 PM