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Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Neo-Catholic Mantra: I’m Ok, You’re Ok

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Michael Davies, author of 'Pope Paul's New Mass' and 'Pope John's Council' was certainly a very 'bad traditionalist' Michael Davies, author of 'Pope Paul's New Mass' and 'Pope John's Council' was certainly a very 'bad traditionalist'

For the ‘good’ traditionalist the Old Mass is something he adds to the ‘hobbies’ section of his Facebook page. He likes the late Beethoven piano sonatas, jogging, karate, Minesweeper, Iron Chef, knee-length socks and the Old Mass but would never criticize the New Mass.  After all, he's a 'good' little traditionalist!

A particularly endearing distinction made by neo-Catholics concerns the difference between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ traditionalist. The difference is never explicitly iterated, but as far as I can tell, a ‘good’ traditionalist just so happens to prefer the Old Mass, whereas a ‘bad’ traditionalist also feels it necessary to criticize the New Mass in some such way.

If we are to listen to the neo-Catholic, it is apparently perfectly fine to like the Old Mass, as long as the reasons for that particular preference are completely superficial. The ‘good’ traditionalist has no problem with the new prayers, versus populum, communion in the hand, the three-year lectionary, altar girls, lay lectors, and the like. That is to say, the ‘good’ traditionalist is quite happy to know that other people prefer that stuff. It’s merely that he personally just so happens to not like that stuff as much. He subjectively prefers the Latin language, ad orientem, the old prayers, silent reverence, and all of those old, charming, traditional things.


If you attend the Old Mass merely because you’re just into that sort of thing, then, well…good for you, says the neo-Catholic. For the ‘good’ traditionalist just happens to prefer timeless tradition. It’s just his thing. It’s apparently something he adds to the ‘hobbies’ section of his Facebook page. He likes the late Beethoven piano sonatas, jogging, karate, Minesweeper, Iron Chef, knee-length socks, Thai food, cats, pleated pants, the color orange…and the Latin Mass (well, let’s not go crazy: he doesn’t like cats). The ‘good’ traditionalist likes the Old Mass in the same way that he likes tiramisu and dislikes v-neck t-shirts. It’s completely and totally a matter of subjective preference. He is keen on the Old Mass, and how nice for him! says the neo-Catholic, while patting his ‘good’ traditionalist friend on the head. Celebrate diversity! Especially since Benedict put the Old Mass back on the menu, the ‘good’ traditionalist is welcome to order it, if he can find a branch that offers it. By all means!

Indeed, these days, the traditionalist simply has no reason to complain, says the neo-Catholic, since the Old Mass is available in select locales inside his diocesan structure. Only ‘bad’ traditionalists feel the need to say something snippy at this point. Even though they have their Mass now, these ‘bad’ traditionalists continue to raise a stink, and sit sullen at the table. They still complain about the menu, even though they can order what they want! For reasons that are obviously completely crazy, the ‘bad’ traditionalist feels the need to criticize the choices of other patrons.

Yes, it’s a silly way to look at traditionalism. Par for the course. Though, it must be said, these are confusing times. For it’s true: the Mass of the Ages is more readily on offer now. Certainly, as compared to the dystopian nightmare that rightly describes the years prior to Summorum Pontificum (a time that conveniently jolted down the neo-Catholic memory hole) these are relatively Happy Days for the traditionalist. Thanks to Benedict’s decree, despotic bishops are no longer able to (so easily) ban the Old Mass from their diocesan borders, making it possible for the occasional parish to occasionally offer it—apparently with no repercussions. The neo-Catholic has a point, doesn’t he? What does the traditionalist have to complain about at this point? He got what he wanted, right?

Alas, as per usual, the neo-Catholic is ignoring some salient details. Yet…ironically, the neo-Catholic’s narrative of the ‘bad’ and ‘good’ traditionalist, while thoroughly silly, gets some traction, assuming that one is otherwise ignorant of the facts (and neo-Catholics seem to be), and given a prima facie glance at a diocesan parish.

For while Benedict’s motu was an important step in our Church’s restoration of Timeless Tradition, and while it was wonderful when he reminded us that the Old Mass had never been abrogated (no doubt to the chagrin of many’ a tyrannical, Silly Season Bishop the world over, and no doubt to the elation of the justifiably annoyed and completely vindicated SSPX parishioner), Benedict’s motu also seemed to ironically allow for neo-Catholics to run with their narrative regarding ‘good’ and ‘bad’ traditionalists. Indeed, as compared to the happy SSPX or FSSP parish that sanely avoids the New Mass entirely, those diocesan parishes that now bravely celebrate the Old Mass have to offer it alongside the Novus Ordo. At 5:30 a.m., every seventh Sunday (when not falling on an even-numbered day (when it’s not raining (and only during months not starting with the letter ‘A’, ‘D’, ‘J’, or ‘M’))), you can now attend the Latin Mass; at 10, the family Mass with puppets (every Sunday), at 11:30, the Spanish Mass, and at 1:00, the contemporary Mass.

Certainly, this curious, post-motu, diocesan state of affairs seems to give justification to an interpretation of traditionalism as being but pure, arbitrary, subjective, personal preference. You can have this, or you can have that. It’s your choice. Whatever feels good for you, whatever you happen to be into, we got you covered. Everyone gets what they want! Indeed, the very words we attach to the two menu items—‘extraordinary’ and ‘ordinary’—seem to give credence to the neo-Catholic distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ traditionalists.

Moreover, as mentioned, this curious, diocesan embarrassment of riches allows us to easily forget the distinctly revolutionary actions of the battle-worn, pre-motu traditionalist tribe. It was much more difficult to give validation to the ‘personal preference’ line of thought, when those who ‘preferred’ the Old Mass met in hotel conference rooms and abandoned cemetery chapels (those usually aren’t the sort of things people do to act on their ‘hobbies’). But now that many of these wary folks have been absorbed into a diocesan structure, and are able to attend ‘their Mass’ in warm parishes, right there in their own neighborhoods, and (just as importantly) given that talk of their own pre-motu dystopia has become taboo…well, neo-Catholics might well think that the only thing that mattered was the offering of a preference.

But this just isn’t the case. With Benedict’s Motu, did traditionalists finally get what they wanted? Only if what mattered to begin with was the satisfaction of a personal preference or subjective whim. That is, only if what mattered was getting easier access to ‘their Mass’. Unfortunately for the neo-Catholic, it’s simply not about what any individual merely happens to ‘like’. It’s about the objective superiority of the Old Mass, and the objective problems with the New Mass.

Yes, traditionalists have been able to re-join the diocesan ranks rather seamlessly (at least those who were interested in doing so), but their defiant stance towards the Novus Ordo has not lessoned or softened. Make no mistake: there are many ‘bad’ traditionalists stalking the pews of their local parishes. And thank God for them.

For while many traditionalists now attend Mass in Novus Ordo-dominated parishes, they nevertheless find the Novus Ordo troubling—nay, appalling. The actually good traditionalist is not drawn to the Old Mass due to arbitrary whim, but because he recognizes its superior reverence and doctrinal content. He criticizes the New Mass not because it’s just ‘not his thing’, but because it is objectively problematic.

Not only does the traditionalist rightly fight for the restoration of the Old Mass, but he rightly fights for the total abrogation of the New Mass. Yes, that might sound troubling or ‘radical’ to the neo-Catholic, but it’s the entirely correct attitude to have, and the right attitude to foster among his Catholic brethren. For in truth, the traditionalist justifiably wants nothing short of the total dissolution of the New Mass. They want the Novus Ordo to entirely disappear from the menu…forever. Much to the chagrin of the neo-Catholic, the motu has allowed folks who think this way to dwell in their midst, given that they are no longer relegated to the high school gymnasium.

We must emphasize: despite their assimilation into a diocesan rank that still sees the Novus Ordo as the ‘ordinary’ form of the Mass, manytraditionalists nevertheless insist, rightly, that their attending of the Old Mass has nothing to do with personal taste or subjective preference. It has everything to do with the objective facts of the matter. Precisely because the Old Mass is (to say the least) superior in form and content, and precisely because the New Mass is deeply and troublingly inferior, the traditionalist rightly wants the New Mass to bite the dust. To be gone. Done. Terminated. Purged. Finito.

He wants every Catholic, the world over—in the country, or in the city, in the suburbs, or in the ghettos and slums—to have exclusive and easy access to the Mass of the Ages. He wants rich and poor, illiterate and educated, black and white, young and old, to have the ability to attend the Mass as it ought to be celebrated, and he wants no one, the world over, to have to endure the Novus Ordo. Ever. Yes, the neo-Catholic most probably finds this stance to be deeply troubling, authoritarian, exclusivist, and elitist. Does not the traditionalist want to celebrate diversity?

No. He does not. At least not when it comes to our worship of God, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The traditionalist pines for a day when the ‘Old Mass’ is the only (Latin-rite) Mass on offer. Indeed, we rightly hope for a day when young people simply have no idea what the ‘Novus Ordo’ even is. One day, please God, children will ask their elders to tell them of the bad old days, when churches offered a vernacular ‘New Mass’ alongside what these children only know to be ‘The Mass’. I can see it now. Our aged Catholic will go up into his attic, and come down with a book called Gather. His grandchildren will gasp. ‘Woa! They used this in Mass?’ they’ll ask. And then, with a heavy sigh, their grandparents will launch into animated stories about altar girls, lay readers, awful cantors, ‘extraordinary ministers’, and something called ‘traditionalism’.

Yes, many traditionalists want the Novus Ordo to go away, once and forever. They want a future where they can refer to New Mass only in the past tense. The good traditionalist will only be happy when talk of the ‘Old Mass’ becomes obsolete, and when the only Mass on offer, with no qualifying distinctions, is the Mass of the Ages.

No, it is the neo-Catholic’s own ‘good’ traditionalist that we should avoid, and avoid becoming, in our complacency; and it is his ‘bad’ Catholic that we should celebrate. It is simply dangerous and wrong to think that this is merely about personal preference, or that we can quit the fight now that ‘our Mass’ is on offer. This isn’t a hobby. It’s not fun and games. It’s about the fullness of faith, and the purging of disorder, chaos, and unprecedented novelty.

Benedict’s motu was not the end of the story. It was just the beginning. The motu was an in. The good traditionalist is not content to merely ‘have his Mass’. His goal is the total conversion of the Catholic world to the Mass of the Ages, and the complete, albeit slow, eradication of the New Mass. Until the happy day arrives when the Novus Ordo is nowhere to be found, the traditionalist will continue to sound the bell, to criticize, to argue, and to no doubt thoroughly annoy the hell out of his neo-Catholic brothers. The ‘bad’ traditionalist will not stop until the world is entirely rid of the Novus Ordo, once and for all.


Last modified on Friday, January 10, 2014