Mark Shea has an article on InsideCatholic.com in which he takes on “Those Angry Traditionalists.” In this article Mark portrays “traditionalists”as unchristian wild-eyed conspiracy nuts who in their enthusiasm for the Latin Mass think that clown masses are the rule and that Novus Ordo is akin to a satanic black mass.
Here is the thing, I am a traditionalist (by my own definition) and a rather run of the mill one at that, I guess. However, I am a pretty happy guy I think. Most of the other “traditionalists” I have met hold positions and attitudes similar to mine. They are pretty happy too. In fact, very few of us resemble the caricature crafted by Mr. Shea. While he generously allows that some traditionalists may not fit this entire derisive description, he contends that many do.
But that is often the impression I have gotten from many (though certainly not all) Traditionalists. Like it or not, discourse among a great many Traditionalists is filled with anger and contempt for Catholics who do not share their burning interest in traditional forms of piety.
While there are certainly such extremists out there, about whom Mark gleefully relates some sad second-hand anecdotes, in my opinion they are the exception not the rule. In his piece he relates a second-hand report from one of his readers that apparently Mark surmises to be garden-variety traditionalist conversation.
[A] friend of mine took a breather from his Latin Mass group one year after a post-Mass brunch turned into a boisterous discussion over whether it was morally licit to pray for God to strike down Hillary Clinton. He said he was well into the discussion when he caught a glance at people sitting at other tables, their mouths agape, listening in shock and disgust to what the traditionalist Catholics were talking about. He realized that HEY, we’re not really being a good witness to the faith.
Now, while the story relayed in this little chestnut may really have happened, I can honestly say that while attending any of my crazy traditionalist
cabal club meetings, that this topic has never come up. Not even between discussing the Vatican conspiracy to hold back the third secret of Fatima or whether Bugnini was a 32nd or 33rd degree Freemason. (Yes, that is a joke. Traditionalists laugh too!) However, I will stipulate that I have missed an occasional meeting, maybe it came up then. At the meetings I have attended, most seemed … well … nice. Nice and happy.
Like I said, I view myself as a happy traditionalist. I am interested in (and enthusiastic) for the Traditional Latin Mass. I even run another blog entirely dedicated to the subject. But I still frequently attend Novus Ordo masses. And while I have never seen a clown mass either, I have seen puppet masses. Additionally, I have been at masses where the degree of liturgical abuse (right up to ad libbing the Eucharistic prayers) has called into question the validity of that one particular mass. Yet even though I recognize and decry (illicit) abuse when I see it, I have never thought that all Novus Ordo masses are invalid as a result. Even us cro-magnon traditionalists can make such distinctions.
I do think that priests and Bishops should do all they can to conduct the liturgy according to the proper rubrics and that lay people have a right, even a duty, to politely remind them of their obligations in these matters. Mr. Shea thinks this makes me and my cohorts “liturgical fussbudgets” and somehow less Catholic.
That note sums up why I have no interest in becoming a liturgical fussbudget. At the end of the day, my Bible — and the teaching of the Church — insists that the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control, not bitterness about mediocre liturgy and still less blasphemy at valid liturgies approved by Holy Church. People who act and talk like this are going to have to figure out how to be fully Catholic or they are going to disappear. A true Catholic faith evangelizes; like it or not, this is not evangelizing, but shouting “Repel boarders” and then pouring boiling oil on your own archers. Such treatment of brother and sister Catholics is, well, evil and will serve to ensure that Traditionalism (or, at any rate, this kind of Traditionalism) dies out in a generation or so.
Again, as a happy “traditionalist” interested in things liturgical and as someone who knows many other like-minded traditionalists, I take issue with Mark’s characterization. I am not bitter about mediocre liturgy, or anything else for that matter, nor have I succumbed to a “Repel boarders” mentality and as previously stated, I have no issue with valid liturgies including faithfully done Novus Ordo masses. Further, most of the traditionalists I know do not view the liturgy as their property or themselves as “saviors of the liturgy.” They know that the liturgy belongs to God and He will save it if and when He is good and ready.
Further, Mark Shea paints with a very broad brush implying that conspicuously absent in the character of those interested in or devoted to traditional liturgy is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.” This assertion is as unfounded as it is unkind. A few revolting stories do not make the case.
Mark, on his blog, has devoted much time and verbiage to the topic of torture. Do his repeated criticisms of the administration and its defenders on this topic make him a “social” or “moral” teaching “fussbudget?” While I agree with him on this topic, I think it is fair to say that some of his comments (in his many posts on this topic) have not exactly exuded love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. I suppose Mark would suggest that this is an important, but broadly misunderstood, teaching of the Church and thus such repeated focus on it is justified and perhaps so is some occasional snark. I don’t disagree. By the same token, I think liturgical issues are very important and the Church’s teaching and instruction on liturgy is widely unknown, misunderstood, or ignored. He has his focus, we have ours. Fussbudgets, neither. And certainly not unchristian.
This is by no means a defense of anyone who acts in any way similar to what Mark Shea describes. Every area of focus within the Christian life and opinion, be it social, moral, theological, or liturgical has its extremists. Those interested in traditional liturgy are certainly not immune. With that said, I think that Mark Shea, in characterizing “traditionalists” as mostly unchristian angry extremists with a perhaps a few exceptions, paints with too broad a brush. Perhaps Mark, in his position as a popular columnist and blogger, attracts more than his fair share of the angry minority. Perhaps. I suppose that this unfortunately it goes with the territory. But that is in no way evidential support for his traditionalist derision.
If Mark Shea happens to read this post, I want him to know that I am not angry. Not at him or anyone else for that matter. I am a happy traditionalist who just happens to disagree with him, my fellow Catholic, on this particular point. I will finish this post in a very “traditionalist” way by quoting St. Augustine, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” That goes for all of us. Happily.