Saturday, September 27, 2014

End of Illusions & New Beginnings

This is meant as something of a followup to our previous post on Neo-Calvinism in the Catholic Church

I missed the 1970s-2007 Traditionalist milieu. I have attended Mass in a FSSPX chapel once in my life, otherwise having gone entirely to diocesan "indult" and Summorum sponsored Masses, both in the old rite and 1962. I grew up in the Pauline Roman liturgy and found it utterly banal, unrepresentative of the powerful faith I was taught in elementary school and by the authors I read privately in high school. I did not grow up in Traddieland, nor did I know the "pre-Conciliar" Church aside from my father, who was born in 1941. Talk of "neo-Modernist Rome," "eternal Rome," the "true Mass," and Conciliar "errors" sail past me. I understand the objections and can lend my credulity to them in part, but the culture around them does nothing for me. Having never known Pius XII's Church nor the FSSPX, my integration into and practice of the faith was always more local than organizational.

The old guard of traditionalists were, as we will see in the upcoming series (still waiting for a book on Msgr. Gilbey before I can start it), not entirely comprised of FSSPX sympathizers and those of the old establishment, but that skeleton of the 19th and 20th century Ultramontane establishment did survive in the FSSPX. Many in those days seemed to think that at some point a good pope would finally be elected who would subdue the Modernists, consign the Pauline liturgy to the dust bin, condemn the world, and consecrate Russia to the Virgin of Fatima. That has not happened nor will it. This was an aspiration founded on the old pyramid framework of authority that Msgr. Lefebvre knew as a young man and which he inculcated into his seminarians (interestingly, Lefebvre also had enough French sensibility to ignore Rome at times). That outlook is either dying or dead.

Young people who involve themselves in older forms of the Roman liturgy never knew this milieu either and many do not seem terribly interested in carrying on the old Ultramontane framework, the late 20th century hopes for a restoration, or a return to the Prisoner in the Vatican outlook. This growing minority of traditionalists either grew up in older forms of liturgy or discovered it, all the while living in the modern Church. They are not ignorant of the problems of the episcopacy or the popes or the average parish, but having not know what things were like "in the old days", they are better equipped to remain level headed, to avoid excesses of emotion, and not put too much stock in a top-down restoration. They often know that the first place to begin any work is at the parish level, with Mass, the Office, traditional prayers, lectures, seminars (on something other than "John XXIII and Fatima" or "The Modernist Infiltration"), and by reaching out to other sympathetic groups. These people will not take over the Church, but, given their propensity for reproduction, they may well overtake the traditionalist movement and vocations both in traddie organizations and diocesan settings. It is in this capacity that they are best suited to influence the Church universal. Even a modicum of reasonable influence is two generations away, yet it is something. Then perhaps the conversation will be about teaching and passing on the faith and not about old memories of 1950. The end of old illusions may spell the beginning of new dreams.


  1. This is well said. BTW I bought a copy of Bryan Houghton's Mitre and Crook. It is terrific, well
    worth getting.

  2. I agree with you to a certain extent; my own experience seems to me relatively similar to yours. But I disagree with your view of new generations of "traddies", at least here in Spain.

    The FSSPX young faithful is still being adoctrinated in the ultramontanist-1950s-style views (and their liturgical praxis indeed witnesses it!), and their ICRSS counterparts are a mixture between people very similar to the former, and others who just have a modern mindset and like 1962 Mass because it is "more beautiful" than NO. Perhaps the last four centuries of Spanish ultramontanism and almost-papolatry, and the lack of any kind of intelligent thinking among Spanish religious writers in those centuries have something to do with that situation, but I feel very sad about the future of Traddieland in Spain: the renewal you point out in this post seems to be non-existent here.

    Kyrie eleison

    1. Justinian,

      We are talking about a trend within a minority of a subgroup, not something absolute. The FSSPX is an odd case and I wonder what their demographics will look like in 10 years. They may still be the home of the hardliners, but that may also mean they will be further alienated from the mainstream Church. The ICRSS is a strange blend of French sensibility and Italian Ultramontanism; they will on many occasions forego their own advice and just do what is right in liturgical matters (importing the old solemn Mass ritual, commemorations, proper last Gospels etc into 1962).

    what kind of nonsense is this? they're not ambrosians...

    1. Just skipped around a few different parts. What utter junk. The pope's cope looks like a hotel bedspread, the deacons' stoles are not of the color of the day and are in the wrong place, the choir is wearing secular clerical suits at Papal Vespers in Rome (!!!!), and some damn fool put a plastic box in front of the altar (which was lamentably there when I visited Gesu in 2011). Perhaps a future pope—H.H. Sixtus VI?—will do the world a favor and suppress the Jesuits!

    2. Oh, and there is the ridiculousness of singing the pseudo-Celtic Alleluia at the Gospel reading (why is there even one?).

    3. Yes. What i noticed about "papal" celebrations is that they don't follow any prescribed book, but are invented - and always new booklets need to be printed out. So much for poverty.

    4. It's dorm room liturgy in high church surroundings.

      One starts to yearn even for (gasp) the aesthetic stylings of Paul VI's papal Masses.

  4. I am sort of in the same situation. Born 1964, I have no memory of the EF "back in the day" and grew up, and increasingly disillusioned with, the OF. I only discovered the EF 11 years ago. But the "Catholicity" of the EF and of traditional devotions and spiritual reading is so overwhelmingly compelling compared to what has replaced it, there is no chance I could ever be content with Kumbaya again!

  5. I agree with what you write here, Rad Trad. There is no need for you to agree with me. Except, looking at the demographics of "the mainstream church" I think (fear) the Traditionalists may have the edge. They have SOME children who are brought up in the Faith. Elsewhere in "mainstream' land there simply are none.
    I have heard of priests in modern parishes enquiring if grandparents could please bring young people to first communion as their parents have already been lost; that is the very "young generation" Vatican ii was supposed to enthuse.
    Your previous correspondent who said vat ii was only a time-limited attempt to reach out to a protestant looking (i.e. American?) world of the late sixties had it right. It failed but it brought the house of traditional Catholic Christianity down with it.

    There may be a situation where there is no living continuity of people growing up in non-traditional parishes. I know opus Dei is doing its best with the ordinary form of Christians, but the Trads may win by default at present rates of growth.

    1. " I think (fear) the Traditionalists may have the edge."

      If the fear of this outcome is centered on the narrowness of this group's perceptions and background, I think it is possible to take heart: it's undeniable that traditionalism is becoming a more diverse, more multivalent, movement as it grows larger and starts to seep back into the Church's mainstream. I think this is only going to accelerate as we move forward, even through the hiccups of this retrograde pontificate. If neither the numbers, the maturity, or the breadth of talent and vision are present yet for a viable, holistic restoration of tradition, they might well be present in a generation or three.

    2. P.S. But I think you're right about the demographic and mimetic doom of the mainstream conciliar Church, as measured in its inability to pass the faith on to another generation. In most of western Europe (and Quebec), it's dead as a doornail. In America, it retains just enough vitality due to residual American religiosity, the survival of more conservative pockets, and Hispanic immigration that it can likely stagger on for another generation or two, but...

      That said, be prepared to see the a wave of the Mother of All Church and School closings up here in the Northeast over the next decade or so. Those boomers/Silent Gens are dying off and retiring, and judging by who's in the pews, there's not much coming up to replace them.

  6. And I know that you mean they are in small numbers leading to a minority. I am saying there may only be a minority of Traditional Christians left due to what modern "Christianity" has done to the numbers.

  7. Hello Rad Trad,

    Another fine essay.

    It strikes me that the FSSPX ended up being not so much a capsule of tradition, but a particular slice of it, or at best slices - principally, of mid-20th century American and French Catholicism. The latter having a little more breadth, since French FSSPX traditionalism seems to hearken back to an even earlier date...

    One understands (and sympathizes with) how this came to be; with the ship taking on water, people clutched at whatever life preserver was to hand. Few (including Archbp. Lefebvre) imagined it would be a long term situation, but that is what it has become. And it is an increasingly isolated and narrowly focused one.

    I think this is why the proliferation of traditional of traditional societies, orders, and lay groups (like Juventutem, etc.) is a good thing. It helps demonstrate, and support, how multivalent tradition can be, in terms of aesthetics and charism (the doctrine, of course, remains ever the same) - and, increasingly aware of the limits of ultramontanism. The FSSP forms outstanding, first rate priests, but it is good that we also have the ICRSS, the IBP, St. John Cantius, the Solesmes Congregation, and a dozen other groups that I could name, and more yet undreamed of. Even if Cardinal Ranjith were elected Pope Gregory XVII next week, it will still be this diligent work at the local level, hopefully engaging a great breadth of tradition, that will make possible any restoration in the Church. We have a long way to go.

    1. "The FSSP forms outstanding, first rate priests..."

      Debatable. There is a higher percentage of good priests than with the $$PX, but the Fraternity holds many of their predecessor's issues. The worst of them are ignorant robots who get all their theology from a manual and would not know a Patrisic writer if one walked up to them.
      Then again, I remember one or two outstanding $$PX priests back when I was with that organization...

      With regards to the article above, I'm going drop something I left on Fr. Chadwick's blog:

      "I think the only solution is to release the hold that the bureaucracy and the “authorities” have on liturgy. If a priest wishes to celebrate Sarum in a parish, let him! If a priest wants to introduce Mozarabic, let him! If a priest wishes to celebrate the Roman Rite according to 1570/1910/1911/1948/1955/1962/1965 or 1969, let him! If a diocese wants to improve 1969 and bring forth new liturgical evolution, by all means, allow them to do so!

      The key to liturgical normalcy and sanity is not centralization and standardization, it is freedom coupled with the desire to do liturgy well."

    2. "Debatable."

      Well, such observations always are. I'm prepared to be persuaded.

      I content myself with saying that I have reasonable familiarity with about three dozen Fraternity priests , and they have struck me as an impressive bunch. Of course, it is possible this is not as representative as I think (they are the ones disproportionately with advanced degrees); it is also possible that one or two things that impress me (or do not alarm me, at least) would be a source of concern to you.

      The FSSP has been able to be picky about its candidates, given the high application rate, and this is one reason why that the average priest is a cut above that which prevailed on average before the Council - though I grant that maybe this is not the nighest standard.

      Let's also not be too harsh on manuals. Some were quite good. They were composed and published for good pastoral reasons. Unless they're teaching, these men are supposed to be pastors, not patristic scholars.

      If a priest wishes to celebrate Sarum in a parish, let him!

      No argument here!

      Of course, the chief bureaucracy to be overcome is at the diocesan level, not in Rome. All of these priests now have the juridical right to do *precisely* this with the 1962 Missal; most of these priests are in situations where exercising that right will carry negative consequences.