Thursday, January 9, 2020

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

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.

(Hermann Kern)


  1. For about twelve years I've been inside traditional Latin Mass communities, and I want to tell you a little story that might illustrate the scarring you mention. A friend who attends ordinary form Masses asked me once why traditionalists say Holy Ghost instead of Holy Spirit when they bless themselves. I told her that all the deformations in liturgy and departures from traditional morality they witnessed and endured after Vatican II made them suspicious of any change.

    Okay, there are some kooks. But there are also kooks in ordinary form communities too.

    For one example out of thousands, I went to a Renew meeting at the home of the twice-divorced leader one Sunday morning. His fiancee told the group that they were sharing their dreams in bed that morning. We all went to Mass and the fiancee was eating a granola bar as she entered the Church, not too long before she would be going to Communion. Nobody in the group thought their open immorality and disregard of the rules of fasting was shocking except me. Especially when practiced by the leader of a faith formation group.

    Think of this. If a modestly dressed woman went to an ordinary form Mass wearing a veil with her husband and six children, wouldn't she get at least as many judgmental looks from the congregation than a scantily dressed woman in an extraordinary form Mass? Most of the traddies I know try to talk to newcomers that show up at our social hours, and the priests are more friendly and accessible to everyone, not just leaders of the community, than any priests I've seen in modern parishes.

    I personally have been scarred by the head of my Church who insults those who love the beauty and the reverence of the traditional Latin Mass and the unchanging doctrines of the Church. For a long time, I was trying to keep an open mind, but now I am just disgusted with him and those in his circle who can proclaim that as far as morality goes two and two can make five.

  2. It may be worth mentioning that there is also a significant presence (in some places) of converts from Protestantism into Tradistani chapels. These converts bring with them old Protestant values such as "fellowship" and charismaticism which they hold in higher importance than the Liturgy. These types tend to be uber-extraverted whilst there is a noticeable trend of introversion among the Trad veterans. Phlegmatics and melancholics (to which I belong) are disproportionately dominant in Tradistan (especially among men). This gives these choleric cultural Protestants, now on fire with the Trad party line in everything, free reign to "evangelize" (read: terrorize) fellow parishioners and newcomers with their smothering, zealous Tradistani religion.

    I always caution newcomers to avoid these like the plague and always - ALWAYS- come for the Liturgy and ignore the obnoxious Trads, while at the same time gain a good understanding of true Traditionalism (read: authentic Catholicism).

  3. Interesting article and I totally understand. My church and place of work, has a Traditional Latin Mass. Hence. I use it as an opportunity to enlighten those who are concerned that Trad children will eventually leave the Faith as their contemporaries did before Vatican ll. I also use it as an opportunity to enlighten the Trads on how presentation is everything. Unless, each side owns their own sin of being judgemental, the excuses and lack of unity will continue. We all have reasons to be bitter, angry, unforgiving, etc. but because of Christ, we have absolutely no excuse and someone needs to make the first move. Why not the Trads? The Latin Mass elevates one even more so to Heaven, shouldn’t this I?

    1. If we want the Tradition to grow we need to build a real community and try to act like we care a little more with our neighbor (those who sit in the pews we see every Sunday, but never talk to). We want it organic and not contrived, but we still need to make a little effort into creating strong TLM groups that care about one another and have each others backs when things get tough.

    2. "Have each others others backs when things get tough"? From 1965 to 2011 when I left the novus ordo and journeyed back to tradition, I never saw these virtues demonstrated by the novus ordo progressive Catholic. Good that your experience was different.

  4. If you're given to Trumpian hysterics against the Pope ("Pachapapa Bergoglio"), and going to Latin mass all these years hasn't stopped that, well... maybe you're wrong

  5. This is a welcome article. While I try not to take any of those "here's what's wrong with traddies" thinkpieces too seriously, I do wonder at the authors' motivations. Most significantly, the recent release by Bishop Barron, during the concerning Amazonian synod, pontificating on the heresies of trade who criticize the Second Vatican Council. The timing seemed so unusual, and while I didn't go looking for anything else by him, I do have to wonder if he ever addressed any other heresies in the church with such fire breathing condemnation. This seems to be the only issue that makes our prelates and professional Catholics find some sense of anger or indignation. Maybe I'm being excessive, I don't know.

    1. Bingo! you are spot on about fire breathing sermonizing by v2 clerics. Leftist marxist ideology is their God not the Lord Jesus Christ.

  6. If you ask fr Ripperger; he'll say trads have a problem with criticism, maintaing just piety to authority and in general subduing the tongue- it has been known to destroy communities.