30 July 2013

Dancing Bishops, Conservative Spin, and the Night of the Long Blogs

The circular firing squad of Catholic blogdom is in full frenzy this week.  The immediate global situation for Catholics who still care about the Church is not so great.  Of course, we are on the cusp of The Great Victory, whenever Our Lord returns.  So, in a way, this is all very little in terms of the big picture.  But in terms of the health of the visible institution of the Church Christ founded on Peter and entrusted to his successors, well, we are in a bit of a bad way.

The purpose of this post is to just point out some of the more memorable blog posts of the past week and give my own take.  There were several good ones, but I will focus on three Catholic opinionators of note.  Read on, if you dare.

Michael Voris, Fr. Zuhlsdorf,  and Mark Shea on the Dancing Bishops

I thought Voris just nailed the dancing bishops debacle.  Is it a doctrinal rebuke?  Of course not.  But that's not the point, is it?

Fr. Z added his own take, which to me was very mild.  His post has been edited due the response, below.

However, Fr. Z's continued Quixotic quest to appease the so-called conservative Catholic followers of thisPope drew the ire of Mark Shea.  Shea responded with the following commentary:  "Ad-hominem-ad-hominem-ad-hominem-ad-hominem-ad-hominem-ad-hominem."

OK, that doesn't really narrow it down, as that describes the content of 99.9% of Shea's posts about traditional Catholics. 

Other neo-Cath types on Patheos took it further-- they flat-out accused Fr. Z of playing the Nazi card.  See the one thing bloggers with some books to sell hate is Nazi analogies, unless, that is,  they're slinging them against traditional Catholics.

After the Pope Francis Canonizes 40 Gay Pride Marchers for the Environment story broke, Shea took the time to condescend to praise Fr. Z for Fr. Z's continued Quixotic quest to appease traditional Catholics fed up with conservative casuistic spin.  Wrote Shea: "Slightly-more-gentle-ad-hominem-but-here's-a-cookie-now-be-good-or-else-you-know-what-follows." 

OK, that doesn't really help since it describes the content of 99.9% of Shea's posts about trad self-flagellation.

What I find interesting in the Shea-Fr. Z exchanges is something my brother pointed out to me today:

The fact that a "conservative" Catholic blogger would so-publicly take on Fr. Z says volumes about both the conservatives themselves and also the reform-of-reform/Benedictine camp of Catholics. 

1) We already knew that the conservatives had to hold their noses and tolerate Catholic tradition, traditionalists, and the traditional Mass for, oh, about 8 years.  As I said before, that was because thatPope wanted tradition.  But when thatPope became thisPope, that all went out the window. You could almost hear the squeals of glee.  Happily, they wheeled Uncle Crazytrad back to the crazy table.

But, but.... as long as the Pope Emeritus had any caché, they still had to tolerate the reform of the reform movement.  That ship sure seems to have now sailed as well, so hey, open season on them, too.  Nothing can stand in the way of book sales.

2) Fr. Z has many fans, though I am not one.  However, he is an important opinon leader on the web for Catholics who care about the faith and the liturgy.  He has done some good work, and at times I think he is a bit heavy handed.  I think at his best he is a very helpful bridge figure, promoting a more traditional Catholic praxis to the greater mass of conservative Catholics.  That's a good thing for anyone who wants to "evangelize" the traditional Mass.  When I have disagreed with his position or his tone I have avoided taking him on.  Mostly, because I am a nobody.  But also because I just chalk it up to the fact that people of good will can disagree and yet be in the same ballpark, so why not work together.

The latest inanity from Shea will, I pray, provide Fr. Z, other bloggers like him, and their readers to understand that conservatives don't (by and large) want common cause with traditional Catholics.  We embarrass them. We challenge them.  It's awkward, really.

Yes it is a shame.  But it is reality.  The sooner Catholics quit trying to accomodate liberals who take all efforts at compromise as a sign to increase the attack, the better it will be for the Church.

Thus, with the abdication of Pope Benedict really comes, in a tangible way, the abdication of the reform of the reform movement.  It did much good, and brought some to tradition while bringing some traditionalists to a more outgoing, evangelizing brand of tradition.

At the time of the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum, some writers fretted that the Pope wanted to use the TLM to really just reform the Novus Ordo, and not to allow it to continue in the future as it is.  I said then and will say now that it doesn't matter.  The availability of the traditional Mass will itself ensure it survives and flourishes.  It is a matter of time.  Forces have been unleashed that cannot be controlled by policy.  Whatever the intent of Pope Benedict behind the motu proprio, it will do its work.  The traditional Mass will win out, without a doubt.

Until then, pray, and enjoy the ride.


ToS said...

It seems Mark Shea is bent on going after anyone who does not view the Church as he does. He is the self-appointed interpreter of all things Catohlic.

He was going after the new Faithful Answers site as well:


Anonymous said...

I do not know the dynamics of the feud between conservatives and traditionalists; I do, however, worry when I see either side make commentary toward the other more cutting than they would toward secularists. Being, I guess, a conservative Catholic, I’ll try my best to offer some observations from that side, hoping and praying that I do not offend anyone too badly:

1) In the traditionalist blogsphere, there seems to be a fairly palpable disdain for the Novus Ordo Mass, the Mass that the overwhelming majority of Catholics attend, the only Mass that many Catholics have ever known. When that disdain comes across, it gives the impression – unintentionally, I realize - that said Catholics are either too dumb, too prideful, or too lazy to stop participating in a cheap knockoff. Also it raises some natural questions: If Jesus used Aramaic and faced the Apostles at the Last Supper, was He guilty of inadequate worship? Or the various Christian communities of Apostolic times? I may have this completely wrong, but my understanding is that some of the Eastern-rite churches never departed from the vernacular – is their Divine Liturgy deficient in that regard? What of the newer Anglican-use rite? It is especially hard for me to dismiss the Novus Ordo Mass when it led to the conversion of folks like former Protestant minister Scott Hahn (his book details how he happened to drop in to a Mass at Marquette University and was shocked to see how much of the content came right out of the Bible, something that might not have been apparent to him in Latin) who does all sorts of work to spread the Faith now; how many people have read Dr. Hahn’s books and thought, “If a Protestant minister can make this journey, I can, too”? I'd have to guess a few folks at the Oratory started in another faith tradition altogether, came to Catholicism via the Novus Ordo Mass, then matured into the Extraordinary Form.

Yes, there are way, way too many Novus Ordo Masses that attempt to entertain the congregation, which makes worship creature-centric rather than Creator-centric. But that is not necessarily inherent to the Novus Ordo Mass itself.

2) There also seems to be a laying of all the Church’s troubles at the feet of Vatican II and the Novus Ordo Mass. I suspect most conservative Catholics would – I know this one does – attribute the Church’s crises to moral and social trends that long pre-date Vatican II. Heck, when I visited the Cathedral of St. Louis in New Orleans and walked through the museum next door, 18th century documents showed priests complaining about Mass attendance back then.

(To be continued...)

Anonymous said...

3) There seems to be a fickle regard for the papacy. It seems fairly obvious that traditionalist blogs are not a huge fan of the current Pope, concerned that he is not promoting “real Catholicism”. The problem is that critique implies the critic, rather than the Pope, is the judge of “real Catholicism”. I understand that part of the point of a blog is to entertain and provoke, but doesn’t “Pope Canonizes 40 Gay Pride Marchers for the Environment” take things a bit far? Especially when, if I read the underlying BBC article correctly, he simply restated Catholic doctrine and decided to dwell on one part of it? (That said, I think your analysis that progressives will take the Holy Father’s words well beyond what they actually meant is spot on.) Isn’t suggesting that the Pope is falsely humble, really an attention hound who loves the crowd, a bit of a Shea-esque ad hominem? Especially when Jesus Himself gathered the little children close to Him?

4) Traditionalists, unfortunately, sometimes get tarred by association with the excesses of irregular groups. For example, when SSPX priests call the Novus Ordo Mass “evil”, when Bishop Williamson refutes the Holocaust, when Bishop Fellay attributes the Novus Ordo Mass to a Jewish lobby (whom I believe he referred to as “enemies of the Church”), then Tradition is seen in a bad light. Given that there is a range of sympathies for the SSPX among traditionalists within the regularized Church, some conservative bloggers no doubt (and probably unfairly) wonder if the most sympathetic share those kinds of sentiments, too.

Again, I offer the above only as honest impression, not as a psychic read of what any party is actually thinking. I expect, and would welcome, corrections to my impressions. I’d welcome an analysis of what you believe to be the motivations behind conservative Catholic bloggers criticizing traditionalists. I mainly, desperately want the Church to be united, because grim times are coming, and we need to be together.

As an aside, yes, if God regards the TLM as the only fitting worship, then it will ultimately triumph. However, if traditionalists wish to encourage that outcome, I would suggest growing it organically, rather than looking to legislative action by the hierarchy. Have a visible presence, even display, at appropriate Archdiocesan events. Invite the local university Catholic campus ministries to visit for Mass sometime, and give them a brief tutorial beforehand so they know what to expect; who knows which students might be captured by its timelessness and reverence? There are probably a million other ways I’m not thinking of.

In any case, I hope the above does not come across as criticism – after all, I can’t really criticize if I’m not even sure any of the above is accurate in the first place – but just a sincere attempt at discussion.

Bryan Kirchoff
St. Louis

thetimman said...

Bryan, your comments are always welcome, and there is no need to worry about being taken the wrong way. I can only speak for myself, as I've not been elected as anyone's spokesman. But I would genuinely love to have (realizing that these labels are only poor shorthand) conservatives and traditionalists pulling on the same oar. Frankly, in the real world, we mostly do, but there is no denying that there are important differences. These divide us as to the nature of the problem and thus of the solution.

I will take your points as you've numbered them:

1. Re: the novus ordo. You've read my blog long enough to know my personal stance. It is valid as promulgated, most actual celebrations of it contain abuses of greater or lesser import, and even as promulgated is objectively inferior in its accidents, though the same in the substance of the sacrifice. That's it. And, you'll know that I think these points are fairly obvious to an open-minded, faithful Catholic. But there it is. Other trads think worse of it. As far as I can ascertain, the official SSPX line is close to this: the n.o. Is valid as promulgated but is a danger to the faithful. I'm sure an SSPX adherent can correct me of I'm wrong. To me, this is an ambiguity-- is it 'evil' or merely 'inferior'? To me, you can't say 'evil' without calling the guarantee of the Holy Ghost into question. The Church cannot promulgate an evil rite of Mass. So either it is not evil as promulgated, to else it wasn't actually promulgated (and there are some who say exactly that).

The fact that most Catholics attend this Mass is, logically speaking, completely irrelevant. It is good or bad, better or worse, irrespective of that fact. If it is inferior, the goal is to get Catholics to attend the superior version, yes?

I don't blame any Catholic who attends the n.o. Not in the least. It is not because they are stupid, lax or immoral. I wouldn't presume to judge them. No way. Not with my own failings always before me. The object of my criticisms, when I give them, is those who force it on the Church. Those who seek to live the Catholic faith as best they can according to conscience and the lights they have are equally Catholic.

Re: language of Mass: of course Christ offered perfect worship. He may have offered the first Mass and consecration in Aramaic. No biggie. Language isn't magic. I do want to point out that Jesus almost certainly knew Latin, and thus likely spoke it with Pilate, for instance, and so could have (fittingly, IMO) offered the first Mass and/or consecration in Latin. I only mention it for form's sake, it doesn't really matter. Recall, the n.o.'s official form is Latin. All else is a translation.

Finally to point one, the fact that the n.o is better than Protestant services is not germane to the question of its merits versus the traditional Roman rite. God deserves our best worship. Why is minimally OK to be the goal?

Look at the empty churches, convents and seminaries! When will we face facts?!

thetimman said...

2) we will disagree on the cause. Whatever the latent, nascent problems existing in the century prior to V2, I submit that the council- the "event" and interpretation and not the documents specifically-- is absolutely the source of the problem. I have heard your take and used to subscribe to it. It seems laughable to me now. Have there been heretics within the Church seeking to undermine it in the past? Sure. But this is an absolute desolation of the faith we're talking about now.

And the novus ordo is anemic, especially compared to its great predecessor Do you deny this?

thetimman said...

3) I do not have a fickle regard for the papacy, nor for that matter does any trad I know. Hence the pain when the office of the papacy is brought into lesser regard by anyone.

I plead guilty to your criticism of my l Jed title, but I was going for humor. I'm just not that funny. I was trying to spoof the mainstream press treatment. Sorry.

I cannot and this will not judge the pope. I have greater regard for the papacy than you know. That is why I'm so darned discouraged. But I do not say despair. Hope is a theological virtue. Thank God, I still have it.

thetimman said...

4) traditionalists generally do not adhere to the Williamson line. Fellay's comment about "enemies of the Church" refers to those who reject Christ. Not a race, but a religion that rejects Christ and His Church. This is not anti-semitism, which is a lazy and unfair charge. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. Anyone who disagrees with this is wrong. Do you believe this? And if so are you anti- Semitic?

I used to be a very smug conservative. It see,s to me that conservatives want to be both 1) faithful and 2) liked. Unfortunately, these are incompatible.

I agree grim times are coming. I agree we need to stand together. I hope we do. We should and could.

Finally, regarding your point about organic growth. Consider: the TLM IS organic. It grew over a millennium-and-a-half. It is handed down. The novus ordo is a banal, on-the-spot fabrication, as the Pope Emeritus said. Please, Bryan, the TLM is our Mass. Let's promote and defend it-- and thus promote and defend our Catholic faith.


long pants said...

"The immediate global situation for Catholics who still care about the Church is not so great." I expect the pope and the millions of Catholics cheering him on care about the church, too. You can't limit "church" to just pretty ceremonies and an unhealthy obsession with orthodoxy. Francis is reminding us of the fact that Jesus had bigger things in mind when he said "go and do likewise." This an exciting time for those who care about the church.

thetimman said...

"an unhealthy obsession with orthodoxy"

That pretty much nails the differences between us, I think.

Let me see if I can capture your side of it: "who cares about truth?"

Jeanne Holler said...

Thanks so much for the blog timman, it is great and very noruishing .
I am "one" of those catholics who returned to the TLM ...which I am thankful that I did.
The n.o. Mass is all the you wrote and more ..it seems shallow and somewhat of a show to me.
The TLM is where heaven and earth meet...and that is what I desire.
I desire to Worship My God and not be entertained by Father Nice or the guitar group who is banging away with their loud protestant hymns ..sorry but that is how I feel.
I will not despair, I will continue to pray.
And of course make reparation, the dancing bishops was a little too much for me folks .
God Bless one and all!

long pants said...

It's not a matter of denying or neglecting truth, it's about not missing the forest for the trees. OUR pope has said more than once that there's a danger in becoming too self-referential. We aren't to remain chained at the altar of orthodoxy and always on the lookout for violators, bemoaning the fact that no one follows the rules as perfectly as I. If that's what we are called to, then the Sadducees and Pharisees would've been held up as Gospel heroes.

X said...

Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out.

Cbalducc said...

I still don't understand why some people seem to "worship" the Latin Mass, as if God Himself commanded us to worship Him in that tongue. Do they think God doesn't hear any other language than Latin? If you can have a Latin Mass, have one, but don't assume it will get you closer to Heaven than one in the vernacular.

Anonymous said...

As far as I can ascertain, the official SSPX line is close to this: the n.o. Is valid as promulgated but is a danger to the faithful ... an ambiguity.

Yea, that’s a tough one. On one hand we adhere to the Mass of the Ages and attend the N.O. only at the very end of need to fulfill our Sunday obligation. I cannot speak to the position of the Society, but I know they will agree that the new Mass is valid, but that’s not really the point. There are those who will not attend a N.O. under any circumstances for reasons they can argue very well, and those like myself (and probably many other Traditionalists) who attend only for weddings, funerals, or to fulfill our obligation, again, at the very end of need.

The question needs to be quantified. From a theological perspective, I am personally not qualified to argue whether or not attending the N.O. is a danger to my Faith or that of my family, which is one reason I have not closed the door altogether on attending that Mass under certain circumstances. But from a temporal standpoint, being a parent to young children, I have the formation of their souls to answer for. No one can deny the very real and visible discrepancies the new Mass contains. They are legion and I will not subject my children to that. If I wish my kids to know the fullness, the beauty, the completeness of their Faith, then the Mass of the Ages is the necessary keystone to that desire around which the whole social Kingship of Christ revolves. It is an ecology. To attend the N.O., even irregularly, in my opinion presents a very real potential of compromising this, and indeed, would be a danger to their Catholic growth. So, ‘danger to the Faithful’ must be understood in a proper perspective.

Finally, I think we who align ourselves with Tradition need to ask ourselves if we are compelled to attend the Mass of the Ages or do we attend simply because we prefer to? I think the distinction is huge.


thetimman said...


You'll have to define what you mean by "are compelled to".

Athelstane said...

Hello cbalducc,

I still don't understand why some people seem to "worship" the Latin Mass, as if God Himself commanded us to worship Him in that tongue.

Latin carries certain advantages and inestimable tradition, but...it's not about the Latin. Really, it's not.

The shift to the vernacular (de facto) was one of the least fundamental changes that the new Mass introduced.

Long-Skirts said...


In their dance
Doin', doin'
The Prelate prance.

Fraternal Fathers
At a glance
Doin', doin'
The Prelate prance.

Of it, luv it
Rio's romance
Doin', doin'
The Prelate prance.

Traditional Priest
Then takes a stance
Scorned, derided
Left to chance

But Chalice of chance
Consecrates to advance
"Come follow Me..."
A True Lord of the Dance!

St. Corbinian's Bear said...

The Bear is confused. Since he has never written an article about the Latin Mass is he automatically lumped in with the odious Mark Shea? Okay, please strike the word "odious," as I should not be calling Mark Shea odious.

I have written articles about extra ecclesiam nulla salus, a whole series on Lumen Gentium's problems (infallible problems, of course), an expose of the USCCB's strange bedfellows and political agenda, and the boobery of Catholic nabobs in general. I gently took Fr. Z to task about his soft pedaling Pope Francis' "Don't Be Judgmental Toward Gays" remark in his combox, and harshed on the Pope in my blog. (If you're a nobody, I don't even exist.)

So is the Bear a Paul Wolfowitz "neo-con?" because he does not pass a Traditionalist purity test? Why not a stalwart conservative and ally? I think the Church has a whole host of problems that would not be touched by universal imposition of the Latin Mass. I also would rather see Traditionalists in the trenches of NO parishes, because it is really lonely. But I esteem the old Mass, am glad it has made a (very) limited comeback, and sincerely rejoice that those who want it can have it. A few of them, anyway.

So can I please have a label that is not "Traditionalist" but puts me to the right of the big name Catholics who sit at the cool kid table? Do I have to convert from Satanism to gain any cred?

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the (as always) thoughtful, thorough, and insightful response to my posts. And as far as my question about the perceived motivations of conservative Catholic critics of traditionalists, your lead post of today answers that to a tee.

Yes, I was over-generalized in my presentation, because I recalled your previous comments about the Novus Ordo Mass properly offered, etc. even as I wrote. So I was not trying to imply that my observations applied specifically or solely to this blog. When I say “traditionalists”, what I really meant was “traditionalist blogs that I read”, which in turn means “traditionalist blogs that I can link to via St Louis Catholic”; thus, the sample size I’m offering is fairly small, though not singular.

I do very much appreciate the accidents of the TLM (if I am understanding correctly that you are talking about its gestures and form). Latin certainly evokes the timelessness of the Faith, and using a “neutral” language serves to remind us that the Church is not “owned” by any particular nation or people. The priest facing forward so that everything points forward to God is powerful.

That said, I think the Novus Ordo (when offered reverently, rather than as an attempt to entertain attendees into religion) is an invaluable bridge to the wider world. Its use of local language simply makes it more approachable for the Protestant or secularist who might be flirting with Catholicism, not to mention the Catholic who’s pondering coming back. If said person, after understanding the substance of the Mass via the Novus Ordo, then decides to move on to the TLM, I think that is a wonderfully positive thing. To use a rather shallow analogy, I somewhat think of the TLM as “graduate-level worship”, which takes nothing away from the value of “undergraduate-level worship” – it is simply that the vast majority of people require that kind of “undergraduate” preparation before even contemplating grad school.

Certainly the fact that the vast majority of Catholics know only the Novus Ordo is not the criterion for whether it is the most fitting form of worship. I was trying to say rather that, if a traditionalist even inadvertently comes across as saying the Novus Ordo is inadequate, a very, very large group of people walk away from that thinking they’ve been told they’ve wasted their time for years, and people don’t tend to receive that well. Perhaps it is a matter of phrasing, of replacing “come to a Tridentene Mass, which has not fallen victim to diluting itself for popularity’s sake like the Novus Ordo” with “you’ve gotten the substance of the Mass from the Novus Ordo – why don’t you come to a Tridentene Mass, where even the smallest detail reflects that substance”?

Anonymous said...

Regarding the papacy, that could obviously be a long conversation. I guess the issue I have to think through is what constitutes fair critique of the Pope for imprudence in teaching Catholicism, when the Pope himself is the primary keeper of what constitutes Catholicism.

Regarding organic growth of the TLM, certainly it developed over the ages. What I was saying is that the traditional blogs seem to experience an emotional roller coaster that rises and falls with the approval or disapproval that Church officials seem to give the TLM at a given time. Perhaps that worry should be shelved (presuming there is no outright repeal of SP on the horizon) in deference to growing the attendance of the TLM through direct, grassroots outreach by TLM Catholics. Thus the suggestion to invite local college Catholic groups (though be sure to apprise them about dress, as campus Masses tend to be more casual), to have a visible presence at Archdiocesan events, and so on. (I’ve even written to the Institute suggesting they start a year-long volunteer program akin to the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, since traditionalist orders have little representation among such programs – devoted service to the needy rendered in a boldly Catholic manner would be a beautiful thing, and might even be an additional spur to vocations.) If the TLM grows in attendance, eventually bishops and the Pope will recognize that.

I understand your clarification of Jewish religion denying Christ, as opposed to cultural Judaism. However, I’m doubtful that most of the public make that distinction. Again, when they hear on the news or read on a blog the words “Jewish” and “enemies of the Church” in the same sentence (I really ought to look up Bishop Fellay’s specific quote), it automatically comes across as anti-Semitic. (Note that such conflation is only going to become more the case – as culturally Jewish populations secularize, the wider public is more and more going to assume “Jewish” refers to culture, even when the Church means it in the religious sense.) So this is probably a call to be painfully exact in language, and to most loudly rebuke incidents like Bishop Williamson’s Holocaust remarks, because traditionalists are the ones most harmed by their fallout.

Again, I appreciate the very thorough response. It has given me tons of things to think about.

God bless,

Bryan Kirchoff
St. Louis

Anonymous said...

Jesus offered the Passover, most likely, in Hebrew -a 'liturigical language', whereas Aramaic was the vernacular for Him and His Apostles. Furthermore, that event (Passover meal) had the 'presider' (Jesus) sit at a horseshoe-shaped table, with all Apostles on His sides, all facing the same way. The point is that is tas formal and dignified, unlike most N.O. masses, which are not.

ToS said...

Long Pants, you confuse Orthodoxy with Phariseeism

ToS said...

[i]That said, I think the Novus Ordo (when offered reverently, rather than as an attempt to entertain attendees into religion) is an invaluable bridge to the wider world. Its use of local language simply makes it more approachable for the Protestant or secularist who might be flirting with Catholicism, not to mention the Catholic who’s pondering coming back. If said person, after understanding the substance of the Mass via the Novus Ordo, then decides to move on to the TLM, I think that is a wonderfully positive thing. To use a rather shallow analogy, I somewhat think of the TLM as “graduate-level worship”, which takes nothing away from the value of “undergraduate-level worship” – it is simply that the vast majority of people require that kind of “undergraduate” preparation before even contemplating grad school.[/i]

The proof is not in the pudding however.

The fact is that a Mass entirely in Latin was used for 1500+ years to convert millions. You would have to look at that evidence and how all those Popes, Saints, and doctors never rejected it.

The problem is Orthodoxy and proper teaching are not in place, regardless of the Mass which brings us to the main point:

The prayers and forms are more explcilty Catholic in the TLM.