20 August 2013

"I have a suspicion that you are all mad … but God forbid that madness should in any way interrupt friendship."

Let us remain together a little, we who have loved each other so sadly, and have fought so long. I seem to remember only centuries of heroic war, in which you were always heroes — epic on epic, iliad on iliad, and you always brothers in arms. Whether it was but recently (for time is nothing), or at the beginning of the world, I sent you out to war. I sat in the darkness, where there is not any created thing, and to you I was only a voice commanding valour and an unnatural virtue. You heard the voice in the dark, and you never heard it again. The sun in heaven denied it, the earth and sky denied it, all human wisdom denied it. And when I met you in the daylight I denied it myself.

Both this quote and the title of this post come from the great G.K. Chesterton novel, The Man Who Was Thursday.  I love this book, as you may know already, and one of my favorite quotes is permanently affixed at the bottom of this blog, summing up my feelings about the Traditional Mass.  

The two excerpts above I use as a thematic introduction to two different articles that were recently posted on two different blogs, covering the fractures on the Catholic right.  Both are excellent reads.  The first is thoughtful and conciliatory analysis of things-- the second one is a bit more strident, but I ask you to read it anyway, as it is a thought-provoker for traditionals and conservatives alike.  The opinions of these two gentlemen are their own.  We can all draw our own conclusions:

Focusing on Springtime, by Peter Miller

Although verbal skirmishes among Catholics are nothing new, the modern ubiquity of internet communications seems to have accelerated these battles to a fever pitch. Recently, combating the “rad trads” has become a popular front in this ongoing war of words, serving to provide (to me at least) a certain degree of short-term nostalgia. It was a mere dozen years (and almost as many children) ago that similar debates distributed on actual newsprint helped facilitate my willingness to honestly consider for the first time what I had previously dismissed as “traditionalist” sophistries. The results would lead to my abandoning previous prejudices toward these Catholics, and starting a website with a primary objective of helping present and defend those same ideas I had previously discounted. Such lofty goals led to my typing numerous rambling, awkwardly-worded columns (consider yourself forewarned) for which the most obvious wages have been years of anonymous electronically-delivered scorn that seem destined to continue in perpetuity.

The labels may have changed, but the substance of the attacks remains the same. I used to be an “integrist” and “schismatic” but have since graduated to the ranks of “rad trad” and “Pelagian”. At one time I would have eagerly jumped into the fray to offer a defense and take some swings of my own, but these days it’s hard to muster the energy toward such a campaign for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the current ecclesial landscape is much different today than it was twelve years ago, with many of the more contentious points of debate cast in a new context by what has transpired in the Church. But more importantly, it’s become harder for me to see these debates as holding significant importance for the future of the Church, as they are likely to cause more harm than benefit.

Traditionalists were attacked when we decried the abdication of the Throne of St. Peter. Nothing good has ever come from the abdication of the Papacy, even when a saint did it. When traditionalists in both Europe and America pointed this out, as well as the novelty given as Benedict’s reason for doing so, traditionalists were attacked as being uncharitable and disobedient by Vatican II Catholics who style themselves as “conservatives”.

These same Catholics pointed out over and over again how precious and lovely the abdication of the Throne was—how it showed the humility and love of a pope too frail and too old to govern the Church in our times. Never mind that the papacy is practically an historical manual on how frail and old men have governed the Church through the ages, even during times lacking the medical sciences our modern world possesses. For these "conservatives", the power of the Holy Ghost is not adequate, apparently, to sustain a man as pope through frailty and old age, at least not in our modern age.


Matt M. said...

But what do you think?

doughboy said...

All I know is that I'm not in a position to question the motives or reasons for our Holy Father Benedict for doing what he did.

Confusing and disappointing yeah, but ... I trust.

Anonymous said...

OK. I read the articles. I greatly appreciated the tone, thoughtfulness, and particularly appreciated the guarded optimism of the first article. The second just covered a lot of tired old mostly straw man arguments. On both sides.

I think both "sides" are at fault. Is there any difference in wearing "Traditional" or "Conservative" as a badge for your particular tribe of Catholic versus the various "national" Catholic badges that have persisted through the ages? Or "progressive" or "liberal" for that matter? I'm not smart enough to know whether such self- and other-labelling is something that we should confess (I suspect not), but I'm pretty sure that it does more harm to unity than good.

Oh, sure, both camps will defend their use of the labels by the importance of what they are defending or attacking (and make no mistake, individuals identifying with each camp both defend and attack). Charity should be the goal, and it is all too often discarded.

Modernity is certainly an enemy, but so is pride.

It is also important to note that the Holy Spirit is playing chess, and we are all playing something far less involved by comparison, probably not even checkers. And that's advice that both "sides" should take to heart.

Romans 8:28: "And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good,"

* * * Commenter's note: Yes, even Pope Francis, even the Traditionalists, and even the Conservatives * * *

"to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints."

In (at least attempted) charity,

SLPS Parent

thetimman said...

Well, answering Matt M. and SLPS Parent, at least indirectly,

I have always thought that (using the labels for shorthand) conservatives and traditionalists had common cause. This is why I have always been flabbergasted when there is friction.

The way I see it, there is agreement on the tenets of the faith, and a marked difference in the practice of it. To me, this speaks of the unfortunate dichotomy between the view of the faith as a set of intellectual propositions, and the view that the faith is that and more besides. The Mass and sacramental forms are not mere accidents, and are not "beside the point".

I have been both, and I would not easily be dissuaded by what I just wrote, as having experienced both.

As for charity, that is precisely the point. Of course that must be our guide. I don't hold anyone's Mass against them. And I don't think I'm any better a Catholic than any other, just because I go the TLM. I think I am a fairly lousy Catholic, hopefully less lousy than in prior days, but I wouldn't bet serious money on it. It is not the fault of most that the faith/practice dualism has become the common currency of the day.

The conservatives don't admit the connection between the liturgy and the faith as much as they might, because I think they find it might open them up to some critique.

If the Mass doesn't matter in its accidents-- not talking substance, just accidents-- if it truly doesn't matter, then why don't they go to the Call to Action Clown and Puppet Masses?

And if it matters AT ALL what the accidents are in a Mass, then why are many so quick to write us off as mere aesthetes or, even worse, lunatics?

I will say, in charity, that I personally have experienced far more derision as a TLM-attendee by some of my circle of conservative acquaintances (no one who reads this blog, though, so no worries) than I ever did as a conservative by my circle of traditionalist acquaintances.

Of course, that is purely anecdotal, but I offer it honestly.

That doesn't mean there isn't great understanding, and some hostility, on either side. That is just the point. We should realize that the attack on the faith isn't coming from either camp, and thus we shouldn't be picking over each other's bones to be the "house Catholic" of the day.

I don't think modernity is the problem. Modernism is. And plenty there are who hold to it.

Fr. Andrew said...

Interesting and I enjoyed the finds. I don't frequent Rorate because the commenters get too fiesty for my temperament.

I mostly read the 2nd link.

Regarding the Holy Spirit and Pope Benedict's decision. I love the man. I believe in the Holy Spirit. But I don't think there is a guarantee of the Holy Spirit guiding the Holy Father in all matters of prudential judgment. And resigning was a matter of prudential judgment. Disagreement with Pope Emeritus Benedict's decision is not dissension.

But I think that illustrates the point. Do I feel assured that the Holy Spirit will prevent Pope Francis from teaching error ex cathedra in matters of faith and morals? Yes. Do I feel assured that the Holy Spirit will prevent Pope Francis from teaching error while on a plane? Or a plain? Nope. Because our Lord never promised that.

Our Lord only promised us salvation, he never promised us that it would happen peacefully or safely. In fact, I think he promised the opposite of peace or safety.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm. OK, this is a lot to chew on. (Although I refuse to get into a debate of modernism vs. modernity. I concede the semantic point. [sticks out tongue])

See, here's a statement that I consider to be a straw man:

"To me, this speaks of the unfortunate dichotomy between the view of the faith as (ONLY) a set of intellectual propositions, and the view that the faith is that and more besides."

I inserted what I assume was an intended "(ONLY)" because that is the only way in which those statements cause the conflict that I assume that you intend to show.

Who believes that faith is ONLY a set of intellectual propositions? Actually, a better question would be whether any practicing Catholic believes that faith is ONLY a set of intellectual propositions. (Presumably an atheist or a nihilist would posit that, with the implicit "and those intellectual propositions are false" at the end.)

I ask not to debate, but because I do not understand what you mean.

And while inquiring, do you really believe that any "conservative" Catholics believe that "the Mass doesn't matter in its accidents"?

Don't get me wrong; I'm sure that some hippy dippy folks exist that might say that, but I can't imagine any "conservative" Catholics who would.

As for being written off as an aesthete or a lunatic, that is unfortunate and should NOT happen. (At least with respect to the liturgy that you champion - if we are talking about your tastes for Chartreuse or certain "musical" acts, well, let's just say I would lean much more toward lunatic than aesthete. . . )

SLPS Parent

Long-Skirts said...


I am a Roman Catholic
Down Traditional lanes
I'm bowlin'

Cause in this Bowling
Alley of tears
Our balls they haven’t stolen!

Erin Pascal said...

I respect the judgement of the Holy Father but I also believe that other voices should be heard regarding this matter. It should be carefully taken into consideration since it will highly impact the future of the catholic church.

Lynne said...

Given the current state of Catholicism and the plummeting numbers of marriages, baptisms, Mass attendence, etc, I would think we'd all (conservative and trad Catholics) would want to stick together. As the Freemason, Ben Franklin, said, "We must all hang together or we shall all hang separately."

I'd like to say that the animosity has all been one-sided, i.e. neoCats towards Trads but see, I've used a label that conservative Catholics (the neoCats) probably find insulting. BUT, as I delve more and more into older Catholic books, i.e. stuff written before 1900 (archive.org has amazing stuff btw), I'm seeing that the Catholicism we practice now is *very* different than the Catholicism that was practiced before and it's not a good thing. I don't like to argue so I will keep my head down, pray my rosary nightly and find other devotions, while attending the most orthodox TLM I can find. I still have to drive by at least 4 churches that only have the N.O. Mass but I am very thankful for the TLM that is offered. I will not financially support organizations like Catholic Answers or EWTN. They are pushing a type of Catholicism that is watered down. I'm not saying that to be mean. It's just the truth.

Jane Chantal said...

Insofar as EWTN’s televised Mass is the NO (albeit celebrated reverently, with many communicants kneeling and receiving on the tongue, and many ladies wearing veils), EWTN might be seen by some as promoting watered-down Catholicism. However, as one for whom EWTN led to conversion, I’d like to say that I am very grateful for it and appreciate what it – both its television outreach and its excellent website, which has tremendous resources such as an extensive library of Church documents -- offers to all.

When EWTN’s foundress, Mother Angelica, was still well and active, she was known for castigating –- on camera -- liberal priests and bishops and the so-called "spirit of Vatican II”, and decrying the damage they have done. Immediately following the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum, the Latin Mass was celebrated at the EWTN-affiliated Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, AL. I think that that gesture was meant to send a strong message -- and did.

thetimman said...

Jane, I second your comments in all respects.