What would have happened if the Serb government had accepted the Austrian ultimatum?

What would have happened if the Serb government had accepted the Austrian ultimatum in all its points? Not much. Such an acceptance would have made it absolutely impossible for the Austrians to go to war; whereupon a few Austrian officials sent to Serbia to investigate the assassination would have presented a spectacle of helplessness. The excuse that such a visit was incompatible with the Serb constitution can hardly be taken seriously; things which were still less in accordance with the constitution happened in Serbia. — Golo Mann

Whitsunday in Kirchstetten

Austrian radio once did a program on W. H. Auden’s time in the Lower Austrian village of Kirchstetten, where he used to summer. For anyone who has lived in Niederösterreich, and who also has an interest in Anglo-American literature, there is a wonderful coming-together-of-worlds beauty to it. The same can be said of the poems that he wrote there. A friend of mine lent me a splendid bi-lingual edition of Auden’s Kirchstetten poems (with translations by Johannes Paul). Here is one on Pentecost, recently quoted by Artur Rosman (transcription slightly corrected from here): Continue reading

Inadequate Interpretations of Dignitatis Humanæ


The Dignitatis Humanæ Monument in Heiligenkreuz

A few years ago a huge sundial with mosaic of the Adoration of the Magi was erected in Heiligenkreuz. It is a monument to the Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Liberty, Dignitatis Humanæ. The monument was built by a society for Christian monuments founded by the auxiliary bishop of Salzburg. They were planning to put the monument up in Vienna. The city government of Vienna pretended to be in favor, but then kept on making small bureaucratic difficulties till the society gave up. The abbot of Heiligenkreuz then said that they could put it up here, and so they did.

The treasurer of the society is editing a little book on the monument. He asked me whether I could write a piece on the relation of Dignitatis Humanæ to previous tradition. “You see,” he said, “I am a Lefebvrite.” “Wait,” I said, “you are a Lefebvrite but you are also the treasurer of a society founded by Bishop Laun that puts up monuments to religious liberty? How does that work?” “Oh,” he said, “it works fine.” So I agreed to write the piece, defending Thomas Pink’s argument for the continuity of Dignitatis Humanæ with the Tradition.

I have begun posting an English version of my piece on The Josias. The first part is about how all interpretations before Pink’s were wrong.

Cardinal Burke’s Visit

On Tuesday in Vienna Cardinal Burke presented the German Translation of a book on the family to which he had contributed. I moderated a panel discussion with him video and audio of which is now online.

As planned, before the discussion I gave an introductory talk in which I talked about Mozart and Richard Strauss. And Prof. Stark had given a brilliant lecture on the philosophical presuppositions of Cardinal Kasper’s theology, analyzing Kasper’s book An Introduction to Christian Faith, and showing how its historicist teachings undermine the dogmatic claims it is supposed to support. Stark ended on an ironic note with the following quote from Kasper: Continue reading

The Synod on the Family and the Opera

Cardinal Burke is coming to Vienna this week at the invitation of Una Voce Austria. On account of the recent Synod on the family they have organized a presentation of a volume on the family to which Cardinal Burke contributed, the highpoint of which will be a panel discussion with the Cardinal Burke. Before that Prof. Thomas Stark is going to give an extended critique of Cardinal Kasper’s theology. I am to give a brief introduction explaining the context. I should probably make some sort of reference to the genius loci of Vienna, and so I have been thinking that I might mention the opera. Continue reading

Der Komet

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The premise of Hannes Stein’s novel Der Komet is brilliant: World War I never happened. Therefore World War II never happened, Vatican II never happened, and so on. Stein delights in painting a picture of an Austro-Hungarian Empire around the year 2000, and imagining all the things that would be different. The Shoah never having happened, Vienna is full of Ruthenian Jews, and the Anti-Semitic party has a couple seats in the city council. The Vendée massacres have something of the status in the popular imagination that the Shoah has in real life. Steven Spielberg is a Hungarian director, and Vienna is the capital of the international film industry. Balkan pop-music, developed from Gypsy and Slavic folk music, dominates the music world the way that American rock music does in our parallel universe. And so on.

The premise also gives Stein a lot of big philosophical questions to explore: free will, providence, fate, chance etc. He does both his picture-painting and his big-question-mulling in a light-hearted spirit with a plot full of obvious symbols, and a set of somewhat superficially drawn characters. The main symbol is a giant comet (der Komet) which is set to destroy the world. This symbol is replicated by a flower-pot that falls from a window, first discussed as an hypothesis in a café, and then actually falling and smashing in the head of a rather nasty left-wing philosopher. (Stein, who is New York correspondent of Die Welt, seems to have vaguely right-wing sympathies). These events don’t provide enough action for Stein though, so he has to introduce a “human interest” sub-plot about the Austrian court astronomer’s wife having an affair with a student. This is somewhat pointless, but very Viennese and reminiscent of Octavian’s affair with the Marschalin in Rosenkavalier. Much more interesting are the conversations in the Café Zentral between the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, the head Rabbi of Vienna, and a Psychoanalyst. Also the sermons preached by the Cardinal and the Rabbi after the news of the comet reaches earth.

Stein ends on a rather pious note with some reflections occasioned by a group of Koran students, who travelled up to Vienna from the peaceful city of Sarajevo to witness the end of the world:

‘Allahu Akbar,’ they observed […] but since ‘akbar’ is a gradated form of the adjective, for which Grammarians have the technical word ‘elative,’ one ought rather to translate the Arabic thus: God is greater. He is always greater. Greater than our dreams and nightmares, greater than our worries; greater than all the terrible things that people do to each other. Greater than any end of the world. Greater than any stories that we could invent. ‘Allahu akbar’…

[Cross-posted from Goodreads]

Corpus Christi in Heiligenkreuz

Below are some pictures of the Corpus Christi procession in Heiligenkreuz today. In his sermon the Abbot mentioned that the  Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Our Lord was extended to the universal Church exactly 750 years ago by Pope Urban IV. The two saints most associated with the feast, the Norbertine canoness St. Juliana of Liège (whose visions inspired its institution), and St. Thomas Aquinas (who composed the liturgical texts), both died in Cistercian abbeys; St. Juliana in Fosses-la-Ville, and St. Thomas (of course) at Fossanova.

Photos: http://www.stift-heiligenkreuz.org/



In the Vienna Woods near Stift Heiligenkreuz is the Carmel of Mayerling. Mayerling was the sight of the hunting lodge in which Archduke Rudolf of Austria, only son of the Emperor Franz Josef, died in tragic circumstances on January 30th, 1889. The Emperor gave the lodge to the Carmelites, and had it re-modeled into a convent with a beautiful little neo-gothic church, with the high-altar at about the spot where the Archdukes bedroom had been.

Today the Carmel Mayerling has an exemplary observance, and several novices. Nor do they neglect the duty of praying for the poor Archduke. On January 30th, 125 years after the tragedy, there was a solemn requiem in the convent church celebrated by the Abbot of Heiligenkreuz. Here are some photos:

The guest-house of the Carmel in Mayerling is used to house a group of students of the Theological Faculty (Hochschule) in Heiligenkreuz. On January 22nd the Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn came to Mayerling to visit both the nuns and the students. January 22nd is the Cardinal’s birthday, so it was a rather celebratory visit. He met with the nuns first (as a cardinal of the Holy Roman Church he was allowed into the enclosure), and then celebrating Mass, preaching a rather moving sermon on hardness of heart. Here are some pictures of the Mass:

After Mass he ate supper with the students: