Friday, July 8, 2016

Traditionalist Identity Politics

Don't tread on my lace!

“I love Catholic tradition, but I’m not a traditionalist,” goes one common complaint of the modern-day Latin Mass attendee. I’m reminded of a recent headline on a Christian parody site that reports on a man who does not want to be labelled a “Christian pastor,” but as a “pastor who happens to be Christian.” We worry constantly about self-identification, about perfecting the definitions of our selves, and trying desperately not to be misunderstood.

At any Latin Mass community one will find a wide variety of types: die-hard 1962ers, high-minded pre-1955ites, those who will defend the FSSP against the FSSPX to the death, those who will do the opposite, and “Novus Ordo babes” (true story) who think the Latin Mass is pretty keen but not an all-consuming passion.

Identity politics is a kind of vanity, worrying endlessly about being perceived correctly by others, and an unwillingness to suffer the minor injustice of misunderstanding. Some are attracted to traddy parishes, but will assure all his worrying non-traddy Catholic brethren that he’s not a weirdo Creationist like the priest in charge. Another will attend the old Mass for its beauty, but will whine constantly about the bad attitudes of his fellow attendees. I’m often surprised they don’t pull out a series of ready-made Venn diagrams to prove they aren’t too strange.

One of the notable vices of our time is the obsession with identity. In its most extreme forms we see people surgically modifying their bodies to conform with their desired shapes. In less extreme forms we see Republicans who complain about every kind of Republican they are not, or Texans who apologize profusely for their fellow statesmen. But our real identities have far more to do with the natures God gave us, our decisions regarding vice and virtue, and our choices of state in life. Anything beyond those tend towards vanity and an excess of eccentricity.

The bothersome part is not so much the appropriation of some particular ecclesiastical identity, but the hatred tossed at others who are actually most similar to the offended party. Nobody is pickier about the way a Novus Ordo Mass should be celebrated in Latin than another priest who does it his own way. No one will complain about an Eastern Rite liturgy like someone from another rite. No two people think of themselves as more radically different from one another than traddies sitting in the same pew.

See how these Christians love one another.

Some small touches of eccentricity are good for the soul and for society, of course, but real individuality comes as a result of spiritual growth. One of the maxims of the spiritual life is that one should not be concerned with imitating one single saint but with following the commandments, because the saints are already so individualized that they cannot be fruitfully mimicked in their unique personalities. The closer we come to God, the more we become “ourselves.” Outwardly we may appear more eccentric, but there is a great chasm between the mere eccentric and the man who is becoming more truly himself, the perfect Idea of himself that God always had in mind.

Communities need group identities in order to survive, be they large immigrant clans or liturgical ghettoes. A certain amount of conformity should be expected from those who are a part of such communities, and nothing tears them apart faster than petty rebelliousness in nonessential areas. If we lack the humility to conform to the broader cultural ideals of a community, then we aren’t truly a part of those communities, any more. We are simply visitors passing through.

15 comments:

  1. That's why we need to work in our parishes. We need to work locally and not separate ourselves in some quasi-sects.

    My parish just featured 2 vernacular ad orientem Masses, and one latin ad orientem with chanted readings and incense.

    My Jesuit friend and i, by the grace of God, and goodness of our parish priest, prepared it. I never thought it would. But hey. We asked. We got what we asked for.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Is there something in the heat in TX or the presence of one, particular major center of Tradistan that causes this blog to paint with a broad brush?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's the North Texas Tradistanis in particular. There was a lot going on years ago and some of the residue remains.

      Dallas in particular was an odd diocese: a large Legionare presence, Rudy Kos, Bishop Grahmann, bad 80's architecture for churches, and a lack of any "legit" Latin Mass options which led to an SSPX monopoly which led to inner fighting which led to a large FSSP parish being set up over by University of Dallas (a very weird college).

      Delete
    2. Dallas seems to be an unusually unhealthy environment all around. It's one of worst dioceses in AmChurch world, and anything remotely traditional has been firmly ghettoed-off into Mater Dei and the Eastern Rite parishes. The Easterners are indifferent to that, but as for anyone traddy....well, combined with the SSPX refugee element, the result is a BBQ pit full of the usual pathologies (see, I'm working local flavor into my analogies).

      "Communities need group identities in order to survive." And in some places, we must work extra hard to make sure those identities are healthy ones.

      Delete
    3. Given the large number of transplants in Dallas, your "local flavor" analogy might need something more Northeastern and superficial. Everyone knows the real Texas in the metroplex resides in Fort Worth ;)

      Delete
    4. In which case, I expect that the new FSSP parish in Fort Worth will have much different (and tastier) sense of identity!

      Delete
  3. Athelstane, yes, it does seem that Dallas is particularly problematic. And from what I hear, the hostility there between SSPX and FSSP is a fever pitch. Meanwhile, St. Mary's, KS circa 1993 called and demanded royalties! Really, that type of pettiness has simmered down quite a bit in most locales; nowadays the younger generation(s) attend the Mass centers interchangeably.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As EV noted earlier, many of the people going to the Dallas FSSP church were former SSPXers, which is a big factor here.

      Delete
    2. Former SSPXers and a large contingent of "Novus Ordo" Catholics experiencing traditionalism for the first time. The latter have a tendency, like many converts from Protestantism, to go veering off into extremes as they don't know any better.

      The former SSPXers (myself included) tend to be either the sanest or the most extreme.

      Delete
    3. Former SSPXers (of which I am also one) usually tend to be very open to imbibing the "neo-con" mindset, especially so when you throw in a mix of "positive thinking" Protestant converts whose path into the Church almost always flows through the apologetics' industry. The two camps combine and become a powerful "third position" which basically boils down to a Protestant fundamentalism with pseudo-traditional Liturgy, after the personal devotional life is first attended to of course. I don't see any of these as necessarily embracing traditionalism but rather reinventing it and then decrying any and all tenets of the original traditionalist position.

      It happens here too, but the focus on the Liturgy itself, I think, helps to mitigate it. The aforesaid camps, sadly, have little use for the actual Liturgy, and such a focus would undercut the identity of which you speak.

      Delete
  4. I'm disappointed that nobody is gushing over my design for a Traddy Pride Flag.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It took me a second to get what the colors represented... then it hit me. Well done! I noticed that there is neither blue nor gold (after all, we cannot be assured they are "approved" or "in the rubrics"). Also, rose gives way to pink once again.

      To be honest though, shouldn't the proportions of the colors be more like this? (courtesy of the St. Joseph Missal of 1961, the Vigilante's childhood missal)

      https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-XVfjRoLzZmI/UKkXKKzj9TI/AAAAAAAAA0s/OlJZUvpLUU4/s1600/TraditionalLiturgicalYear.jpg

      Delete
    2. There's no black in that diagram, though.

      Delete
    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete