Monday, February 26


What We've Learned and Why It Matters

My Friday post about "Tradition and Traditionalism" accomplished exactly what I was hoping to do, in that it threw what I think is a significant issue onto the table, and opened it up for discussion. What especially pleased me about the results is the sense that I am not alone in my concerns with respect to these matters, and thus that there is both a desire for broader use of the Tridentine Mass and a discontent among even the most sympathetic with respect to the liturgical and theological atmosphere in which its celebration currently takes place. This confirms, to some degree, my hunch that there is a much greater "market" for the Tridentine Rite than is currently taken advantage of, even in places where the Indult is generously applied. This is very important because of the impact it has on the possibility of a wider Indult. In other words, what if there was a universal indult and no one came? Or if people came a few times and didn't stay?

In some sense, this question leads to the answer to the question that has been posed a few times in the comments on my post and Drew's: why does this matter? Why are we picking on traditionalists like this? After all, do they really pose a threat?

The point of this discussion is that attitudes and approaches in the traditionalist movement are often a hindrance to both the furtherance of the Tridentine Mass and indeed to the cause of traditional liturgy as a whole. By viewing with suspicion attempts to integrate the Tridentine Mass into the life of the present-day Church, such attitudes propagate the illusion that the indult is simply for those with a nostalgia for the entire life of the Church in a different age, rather than an indult to use a traditional form of the liturgy within the present-day life of the Church. As such, then, they are thrust into the dangerous position of a self-characterized "remnant" approach, rather than being leaven for the whole Church. This approach leads unsympathetic observers to write them off as right-wingers with nothing to contribute. It leads sympathetic observers and occasional participants such as myself to think that this approach amounts to shooting oneself in the foot as far as evangelization goes.

Thus, to raise these issues is not unduly picking on traditionalists but rather taking up a necessary corrective within the community of those who favor traditional, beautiful liturgy. Granted, the position I am taking that "traditional" must be without "ism" may seem like a harsh one, but it is an important one, because the future of the Church lies in an integrated vision, not in the extremist dichotomies we have been stuck with for more than 40 years. In the same way, we ought to also be "progressive" without "ism", because the Church must always be moving forwards in certain ways while drawing upon the riches of her tradition. To take this approach is to liberate ourselves from ideological categories both within and without the Church, and I think it is precisely the vision that John Paul II and Benedict XVI have wisely presented to us.

I also think Emily has raised the important point in her comment of the question of the territorial parish and of the dangers of separatist tendencies among those of a certain taste, theological opinion, etc. This is especially true at this crucial point in the Church where many good seeds are beginning to sprout even in what may have seemed like barren places. The question, then, might provocatively become not just how bad things have to be to justify leaving, but whether inertia and custom might prevent some from returning from their "haven" back to their old parish to which they might now or in the near future be able to contribute much in the way of good.

Having placed these ideas on the table, I hope to go into greater detail in the next days and weeks with respect to some of the particular issues I have raised, and those that our commentors have raised. I think this dialogue is extremely important, and I thank those who have already participated and invite more readers to voice their opinions on these matters.

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