In recent weeks people have brought multiple anti-traditionalist pieces to my attention, which have been written by commentators who piously wring their hands about a lack of good manners and welcoming committees among Tradistani communities. These writers seem to be of the “I love the Latin Mass but I wish I didn’t have to deal with all those pesky people” type, and who proceed to hammer down a list of poor behavioral patterns which must be corrected before they will again grace traddy parishes with their presence.
I am no stranger to the difficulties of adjusting to new social groups; nor are most people, in my experience. The problem of alienation is common across group and personality types, even among the extraverts who try to be friends with everyone. Men form deep friendships in their formative years among compatriots in school, church, and political causes. Apart from the natural growth of families, most find it difficult to form deep or even lasting connections after their mid-twenties. Marriages too are increasingly unlikely to last in our monadic anti-culture.
Traditionalist communities after the last council were forged in fire. Reacting against the ill-will and deception of clerics of all ranks, these Catholics formed miniature societies which were still brittle from the abuse they were fleeing. They were refugees with little in common except abuse, and while the pre-Pauline form of the Mass was a symbol to rally around, it was still insufficient to cover over the deep differences of those who suddenly found themselves with strange bedfellows. In some cases, this ended in the further splintering of loosely confederated Catholic groups, but those who had fewer options attempted to make the best of a bad situation and get on as well as possible with their neighbors.
Normal diocesan parishes had historically constituted a greater cross-section of social strata, temperaments, and experiences. Except when catering to a very specific neighborhood or rural space with its accompanying demographic, they more often housed a comfortable variety of cliques and opinions than do the refugee communities of the Tradistan Archipelago. Yet even these territorial parishes today have a tendency towards cultural crystallization depending on the strength of a pastor’s personality and the busybodyness of a parish council. The abolition of the requirement to be registered in one’s territorial parish has encouraged a general grouping of like-minded Catholics into their preferred parish, and we lose the opportunity to learn the virtue of toleration.
The obvious difficulties the Church has with showing compassion to abuse victims extends to those scarred by all manner of abuse. Doctrinal abuse is a mockery of the Truth, asking afresh Pilate’s sneering question. Slander from pastors against the sheep in their flock is nearly the worst thing one can endure from a trusted leader. Traditionalists have suffered these and even the insult of their fellow laymen who blind themselves to the incontrovertible evidence of abuse out of flattery. Perhaps it is not correct to say that traditionalists have a right to bitterness and isolation, but their reaction is at least comprehensible from a psychological point of view.
Those who write these new think-pieces are not without some merit when they call for reform and a societal shift, but they do not truly know what to recommend because they do not acknowledge the roots of the problem. Even today, traditionalists are regularly carpet-bombed by pesky bishops looking for a scapegoat to distract the laity from financial and sexual corruption, but disillusioned neo-traddies who want the old Mass without the people insist that the problem is a mere lack of friendliness and smiling. It is a terrible thing to tell a sufferer of PTSD to be cheerful and outgoing, even if their trauma is “merely” that the sitting pope has once again insulted them in front of the whole world. People are similarly intolerant of the failings of their own family members, as when they impatiently tell the drunk younger brother to just get over his divorce already. Familiarity breeds contempt. Those who cry for more human friendliness are rarely willing to be the friendly and outgoing face for newcomers that they demand. They are more likely to complain to a sympathetic public ear than they are to embody this kindness, but true charity goes both ways.
This short essay is no apologetic for every traditionalist excess nor an excuse for rudeness, but a call for a bit of realism. If you are outside looking in at the unhappy Latin Mass-ers, make some effort to take their experiences seriously before dismissing them as a load of cranks. You are not going to talk them down by insulting them further, and a sympathetic ear can go a long way toward smoothing rough edges.