Saturday, July 12, 2014

Why I Am Not a Traditionalist

In Terry Pratchett's delightful "Diskworld" series, there is a entrepreneur of dubious ethics who appears just at the right moment to make a sale, whether of his famous -- if questionable -- pies, or more exotic wares. His pitch for his ostensibly cheap goods is that "I'm cutting me own throat," earning him the name "Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler."

The Bear figures many of his readers are traditionalists. He has nonetheless decided to cut his own throat, bite the hand that reads him, and spit into the wind of prevailing opinion by explaining why he is not a traditionalist.

First of all, this does not mean he has anything against traditionalists, or the Vetus Ordo. The Bear is familiar with the reasons the Vetus Ordo is symbolically superior to the Novus Ordo, and agrees with them. Traditionalists can be counted on to be well-catechized, fervent and philoprogenetive, all qualities much admired by the Bear. What traditionalists believe, the Bear probably believes. The Bear is glad they exist.

On the other hand, the average Novus Ordo parish is likely to be a mixed bag of clueless pewsitters, bad music and irreverent celebration that at best still has the priest facing the wrong way for a sacrifice, and offers the temptation for him to put on a show for the audience. It was probably a bad idea, and is certainly ripe for abuse. There is no need to rehearse the Novus Ordo's deficiencies for the Bear, because he can do so as well as anyone.

In other words, the Vetus Ordo Mass is demonstrably superior in every way but one: it does not bring more Jesus down from Heaven to be consumed by sinners. (If you believe it does, then you may stop reading right now, because we're probably not going to agree on anything.)

Like it or not, the Novus Ordo is the typical Mass of the Catholic Church; the Vetus Ordo being a tiny exception for people in cities that may have one available. To the Bear's knowledge, there is not one for the southern third, at least, of the state of Illinois -- which is a pretty big state -- outside of the metro east area (or immediately across the Mississippi River in St. Louis).

Going on about how awful the Novus Ordo Mass is writes off the vast majority of Catholics.

The Bear thinks it would be great if the Catholic Church would return to her glory days: Latin Mass, tens of thousands attending public rosary rallies with government officials, big families and no shortage of priests, all brick by magical brick.

But that's not going to happen.

In isolated traditionalist enclaves, things probably look pretty good. It must seem like a simple matter of just getting more Latin Masses going in the hinterlands, if traditionalists ever think of the hinterlands. It is easier to get a "critical mass" when you have the population of a Metropolitan Statistical Area to draw from. It is a much different story outside the big cities.

But this raises another point. Most people in the hinterlands don't want Latin Masses. They like their "participation," their "friendliness," and Father's non-challenging homilies. The Bear believes there is something a bit elitist in turning your nose up at these sentiments, although ideally they should be gently improved over time whenever possible. Elitist, and, the word must be used: divisive.

Where is the humility St. Paul demands of the more mature or secure Christian in the matter of externals? God forbid anyone should read anything written by the Bear that damages his faith, and would not criticism of the ordinary celebration of the Church's Mass run that risk?

The Bear believes the way to have a better Church is to make whatever parish God has planted you in better. If you go to an FSSP or Institute of Christ the King church, maybe you don't have much work to do other than polishing an already well-oiled machine. If you're in a Novus Ordo parish, maybe you have a lot more work to do, starting with a crumbling foundation. And maybe the mission is not to try to generate support for a Latin Mass for an elite group (good luck), but to be the one RCIA instructor that actually teaches the faith, or the voice of sanity on the parish council.

(It's kind of fun, really, like being a secret agent.)

That's not much, true. God has wisely not entrusted much into the Bear's paws. But his Novus Ordo parish is where Heaven meets Earth. Shall the Bear flee (again) from his post? Never. He will do what little he can do, without criticizing anybody else's Catholicism.

So sing the praises of traditionalism. But don't be surprised if the Bear turns a deaf ear when the humble Novus Ordo Mass per se is criticized. (We're not talking about silly abuses like puppets or clowns; that's fair game.)

The Bear is conservative when it comes to doctrine, but will go to his despised Novus Ordo Mass. It is still too good for a sinner such as he.


  1. "The Bear thinks it would be great if the Catholic Church would return to her glory days: Latin Mass, tens of thousands attending public rosary rallies with government officials, big families and no shortage of priests, all brick by magical brick.

    But that's not going to happen."

    It is going to happen.

  2. Your mouth to God's ear, timman, but in the meantime, I'm gonna try to bloom where I'm planted.

  3. I am probably more of a traditionalist, which I attribute in part to what I believe is the unrealized expectations brought on by Vatican II. As a youth I recall the excitement of the time with all the changes to the mass and the faith in general. Most of it in my eyes has ultimately been exposed as window dressing and damaging window dressing at that. I miss the Jesus of old who actually required following doctrine as compared to Jesus, the surfer dude, who is looked at as a kind of omniscient Keanu Reeves. After today, our parish will be getting a different priest. The last two have been conservative, which fits my personal life philosophy, who actually mentioned (horrors) abortion and marriage (before it had to have the word "traditional" placed before it). So, more change is in store. I fear it may not be for the better.

  4. By "traditionalist," I mean one who insists on the Latin Mass to the exclusion of the new Mass, if I failed to make that clear. I would call someone who values the traditions of the Church but does not denigrate the new Mass on principle a "conservative." This is taking nothing away from the Latin Mass, but recognizing that it is available to a tiny elite, mostly in major metropolitan areas, and there is not much interest elsewhere, not realistic prospects of it replacing the new Mass. It is a small step from "I prefer the Latin Mass," to "Your Mass is no good."

  5. My spell check does not recognize the word "nor" by the way.

  6. I don't denigrate the new Mass, I just have problems with a lot of Kumbaya trappings of some venues. Jesus on Earth was not always smiling nor was He a 70's hipster some people picture. I vaguely recall some "unpleasantness" with money changers in the Temple for example. But, if it works for people, go with it. But I believe there is a danger of watering down the Faith.

  7. Indeed there is. I think we agree, unless you're a Latin Onlyist :-)

  8. Funny; in my experience, the social elites are far more likely to be found in Novus Land. Trad Land is for, well, zealots.

    Dear Bear, please consider that liturgy is about more than validity. Jesus comes (or more accurately, we become mystically present at the place where Jesus IS) in either case. But while that's essential to the Mass, it isn't its culmination and purpose. The Mass isn't for us -- an important truth that traddies get and others, mostly, don't. And as you seem to grasp already that the O-Form is deficient in the vertical dimension, there's good hope that eventually you will agree that the X-Form is objectively superior not only for the reasons you've mentioned but, ultimately, because it more explicitly and deliberately offers Jesus BACK UP to the Father.

  9. Well put, Romulus. Perhaps I am making a virtue of necessity, but the fact remains that what traddies or I like is beside the point. The Novus Ordo is the only show in town for most Catholics, and I can't join in bashing it where it is done reverently, even if I must acknowledge the old form does things better. Yes, we cringe a lot at the amateur theatrics and stand-up, but I just can't write it off. Also, I HATE the fact that we have a Spanish Mass! Ideally, we should have one Mass, rather than divide up the Church into Latin Onlyists, Spanish Mass-goers, 10 o'clock regulars, a Charismatic Mass, and whatever else. If you want to see the Latin Mass spread outside of its urban enclaves, let's see the master plan.

  10. Not to be a bore, but for the record, I must clarify my post. In both forms of the Mass validly celebrated, we become mystically present at the Sacrifice of Calvary. In NO way should this been seen as diminishing or reformulating the truth that Jesus is really and substantially present in the tangible eucharistic Elements that we see before us, which have been transubstantiated into our Lord's body, blood, soul, and divinity. I'm sure the Bear understood me to mean that all along, but I do not want to confuse others.


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