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Monday, June 8, 2015

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the Catholic Traditionalist Featured

By:   William Price
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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the Catholic Traditionalist
In a recent  meeting with the pastor of our Church, the term "special interest" came up in our discussion about the Traditional Latin Mass. Part of my responsibility as a parish member and lobbyist for the TLM is to oversee the logistics of our recently granted Sunday celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass at the city's oldest and most beautiful Catholic Church. My new pastor, an able and dedicated man, with a true affection for the old liturgy, is also typical in some respects as one who grew up during all the ecumenical trends launched after of Vatican II.  

A point made in the meeting was the need to regularize the "special interest" groups, like the TLM and the Spanish congregation, into the parish fold. For the last twenty-five years my family has attended the Traditional Latin Mass, the Mass of my early youth. Over the years more and more weathered stalwarts among the TLM's devotees began exhibiting traits of Post-Traumatic Stress.


As a combat veteran I am familiar with manifestations of that syndrome. Not exclusive to war, PTSD can be caused by other shocking or traumatic events such as rape, bludgeoning or even severe accidents. Recognizing the symptoms is key. The evidence of PTSD is contained in the identifiable reactions to the cause responsible for the condition, such as war, rape, or psychological torture. Some Traditionalists, after decades of repeated rejections to reasonable suggestions and denials to simple requests have developed parallel symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress. Traditionalist PTSD is often triggered by Vatican II "Springtime" psychobabble. Whereas most suffering from PTSD exhibit their symptoms shortly after the traumatic event, this variant intellectual strain is typically induced over a long term by  incremental doses and likely triggered from the following partial list:

  • Refusing "permission"  to petitioners for Latin Masses at locations convenient for those that  desire to attend. Many traditionalists travel over a hundred miles for aTLM
  • Denying baptisms per the Traditional Rite, which include prayers of exorcism
  • Decades of rejections to requests for traditional wedding ceremonies
  • Years of denials for permission to have the TLM in Catholic Churches instead of buildings not designated for worship.
  • Refusals to allow canonically  fit priests, specifically trained in the Traditional Liturgy to serve in diocesan Churches for Catholics who desire the sacraments in the old rite.     
  • Refusing to confirm children past the age of reason and properly trained. Denying them the grace granted under the Traditional practice for the sacrament because of new arbitrary diocesan regulations.
  • Gross diocesan negligence as a result of not training priests in the Extra-ordinary Form, especially after the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum by Benedict the XVI


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These and others valid grievances are the cause of Post-Traumatic Stress in the Traditional Catholic. Not all of us exhibit the symptoms, but all feel the chronic pain delivered by thousands of diocesan snubs for over four decades.

My family and a few friends watched as I shot to my feet, thighs clearing the kitchen table, at the sound of a thunder clap. My first hour home after over a year in Vietnam was punctuated by a reaction to my conditioning.

Traditionalists react too. Somethings are too unpleasant to speak about with anyone that cannot genuinely empathize, or has not had the experience. I notice when some traditionalists do attempt to give explanation for the Church's ancient approach to our militant Catholic faith, it often ends in frustration. I remember being asked to sketch my experience in Vietnam. The query itself can prompt the memory, with vivid mental pictures, like incoming mortar rounds exploding and the emotional voices reacting to the bombardment, or loading a bloody body on a chopper while the smell of cordite still lingers in the air.  

For many of us, the words can't quite disconnect from the feelings, so you changed the subject or just chanted "war is hell". When some traditionalists are asked about their convictions or try to explain our relegated status in the diocese, years of mental torture is evoked, emotions accumulated over decades trigger the stress syndrome's side effect that prevents one from offering a calm pleasant and well-articulated response, or discussion. Thus, we are often pigeon-holed by listeners as sufferers from hallucinations, or people prone to over excitement and knee jerk defensiveness.

I came to understand the civilian equivalent to the meaning of what we in the combat zones referred to as the "fat dumb and happy" (people back home engaged in the mundane activity of American life). Many back home didn't want the painful truth. Many traditionalists used to think most people would respond to the truth. Wrong! Not if the truth is painful and threatens one's personal comfort zone.

Here's a truth: The KIA's (killed in action) that I knew, did not die for their country; they were killed carrying out a mission while trying to survive. We all took risks, usually under orders, but all went into battle with the hope of surviving. Remember, there was compulsory service in those days. Likewise, most worshiping in the Traditional Liturgy do not do so only because of the ancient, beautiful aesthetics (nostalgia), as many outside may believe, but primarily for the pure truth contained in the liturgy's declarations. The Traditional Latin Liturgy gets it right...the true Mystery of Faith, Transubstantiation, the miracle and the ancient mystery of our Faith still declared reverently and solemnly: "This is the Chalice of My Blood... (present on the altar) of the new and eternal testament: The Mystery of Faith".

Are we a special interest group? If we are, we were made so through decades of being marginalized, simply for defending Catholic Tradition.

Finally, a new force of bright young Catholics are streaming into the Church's Traditional Liturgy. One manifestation of this is Juventutem Meam, a nationwide group of  young Catholics, dedicated to the spread of the Tridentine Mass. Sacred music, chant, and the rubrics of old are attracting the young! The treasure house of Tradition is being explored by a cadre of fresh minds. The old warhorses, many recognized by their symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress, held the fort during this modernist siege on our Church's treasured past. Catholics unencumbered by the psychological baggage that so many battle wounds inevitably bring are taking up the old positions on the wall. Weapons of Faith and Hope, stored in the armory of the ancient catacombs, are being brandished by the young. We stubborn old pre-Vatican II cranks can take solace, knowing the prophetic words of the late Fr. James Downey: "The Laity will save the Church!"  

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Last modified on Monday, June 8, 2015