Friday, April 13


Tradition and Traditionalism: Some Food for Thought

As many may recall, I ran a series of posts in late February and early March on the subject of "Tradition and Traditionalism," that is, the necessary sorting out of tradition as such from the various other agendas that have found their way into traditionalism. Two recent pieces point to the necessity of such an argument and the requisite discussion that ensued, especially in light of the forthcoming motu proprio.

Dr. Jeff Mirus tells on "How Traditionalists and Modernists Are Alike." Much as I think the word "Modernist" wore out its use in theological disputes about 90 years ago and I also think this article is a bit too polemical, Dr. Mirus makes some good points. Especially notable is this section:

The naïveté of both modernists and traditionalists is so extensive that it fails utterly to charm. Both are convinced that, if only their preferences were adopted by the Church, all the problems of the Church in the world will be solved. Traditionalists really believe, for example, both that the changes in the liturgy are the source of most other problems afflicting the Church, and that the imposition of the Tridentine Mass will quickly make these problems disappear again. Modernists really believe that the reason the Church appears to be in decline is because it doesn’t understand what is going on in the world, and that if only it will adopt the insights of the age, the Church will suddenly be relevant again.

Neither group has the slightest understanding of the incredible power of large cultural trends. Traditionalists define themselves in opposition to these trends but naïvely think, first, that their anti-culture has no problems of its own and, second, that the Church can completely rise above the prevailing culture and control it. Modernists define themselves in accordance with these cultural trends, naïvely believing they have achieved independent thought, that new is always better, and that their new ideas are panaceas. Meanwhile, the Church does contribute to the formation of culture, for her ideas and witness are always somewhat independent of the culture and superior to it, but she does so only with the greatest difficulty, because she cannot prevent her members from absorbing many of the prevailing culture’s characteristics. The sins of her members, in the main, will be the sins most characteristic of the times. This has been so in every age, and it is inevitable.

Dom Bettinelli has also discussed this issue in one of today's posts, making this trenchant point:

With the rumored motu proprio expected to be revealed sometime between now and the Second Coming (although at this point I think the over/under is now outside this millennium), folks who are thinking of asking their local priest to start providing the TLM to them should start boning up on their manners and charity. Because it looks like the agélaste is not only on the Left.

Both these pieces, I think, provide examples of a growing insight that even those sympathetic to the more widespread use of the Tridentine Rite and to more reverent liturgy in general are concerned about the problems of tradition becoming an "ism" instead of a vibrant, dynamic force in the Church. A spirit of generosity and charity will help to heal the wounds created by the iconoclasts of 40 years ago, rather than reopening them or seeking to inflict them on the other side.

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