Three NCR articles

30 08 2010

The first by their token Latina pundit:

But, in Latino healing practices called curanderismo, it is just the opposite. Curanderismo, which is often taught under the guidance and protection of the older women, is the spiritual practice, most often devoted to intercession through Jesús y Maria, toward the healing of spirit, soul, mind and body.

This spiritual discipline is specific and varied in each locality. It can be said that in parts of Mexico, it is a combination of the ancient Nahua people’s (the original tribal name which Spaniards overlaid with their word, Aztec) spiritual understandings, blended with very old Sephardic traditions that had entered the Catholicism of the 16th century Conquistadores, and sometimes merging further with spiritual practices from 15th century Africa, via slave women and men forced to the east coast of Mexico and Central America.

Such militant cultural posturing does a disservice to our ancestors in that it fails to acknowledge the complexities of the origins of their beliefs. Notice that she lays the credit for curandero practices at the feet of Aztecs, Africans, and Sephardic Jews. That seems to be a sort of “reverse” colonialism: anything exotic must be foreign to the Christian ethos, because “real Christianity” would never permit that sort of thing. The problem is that in the Catholic world such healing systems were so ubiquitous even in the “old country” that you cannot trace their origins just to Aztecs and African slaves.

(Note: the Aztecs are not the only indigenous people in Mexico, or even the valley of Mexico. Associating all Mexicans with them is an exercise in bourgeois nationalist posturing.)

Also, making it an exclusively female thing is aligning such practices to American “liberal” thought. Some of the greatest practicioners of “curanderismo” were men such as Don Pedro Jaramillo and el Niño Fidencio. These people should really check their facts before using traditional culture in their rhetorical wars.

The second is on the decline and rise of “zombie clericalism”

Clerical Culture, once the greatest show on earth, has not posted its closing notices but, like the three ring circus it so closely resembled in its days of glory, it has seen its tattered wonders outstripped by those of modernity, and the people are neither enticed by its barkers nor willing to believe in its clever illusions anymore. Its dissolution is a sign, starker than a symbol cut into a wheat field, of the collapse of the hierarchical pre-Vatican II establishment that so many righteous clerics are struggling to restore.

Ordinary Catholics love their church and their faith but long ago left the midway of the clerical culture circus. Yes, yes, they nod in recognition but what do we do now? The first thing, perhaps, is to stop debating with those out in the clerical cemetery trying to dig up the corpse of its culture. They are just digging the grave a little deeper. Watch the mournful scene and grasp the meaning of Jesus’ injunction to let the dead bury the dead.

I was reading somewhere else of the Catholic traditionalist love for all that is gaudy and pompous. In SSPX seminary in Argentina, there was briefly a Chilean guy who had been a seminarian with the Fraternity of St. Peter (in the United States, oddly enough). He spoke once of a pontificial high Mass that they put on where the celebrant (I want to say Cardinal Stickler) wore a long cappa magna that almost stretched the length of the nave. He said that the old women were crying at such a sight. I suppose as a twenty one year old guy, I thought that was cool. And certainly the SSPX was far too sober liturgically to carry on such bizarre spectacles. Nowadays, however, I just see that sort of stuff as symptoms of Stockholm syndrome religiosity.

Some people want to return to the bad ol’ days when the clergy demanded their hands to be kissed and pranced about like feudal lords in their church manors. It is thus little surprise that those who have been most vocal about a return to clericalism are a few nutcases in the laity itself (I must admit that I was once one of them). We have on the other hand the rhetoric from conservative and traditionalist Catholics that a return to clericalism is the wave of the future. The convents with the most “traditional” habits are bursting at the seams, the most “conservative” dioceses get the most vocations, and so forth. What is hoped for is a sort of Catholic “clericalism-lite”. “I know that stuff led to a culture of silence and repression that caused all sorts of problems. But we are going to get it right this time. We can have cappa magnas and tolerance too.”

Not sure if that’s going to work, but good luck with that.

The third is something along the same lines:

That world of confused thinking about human sexuality was also the incubator for the sex abuse crisis from which so many still suffer. The possibility of going back to that age of misunderstanding is the most ominous part of the Reform of the Reform now underway. As for the cardinal, he may be the preacher who talked on sex, moving an elderly Irish lady to say, “I wish I knew as little about it as he does.”

To be fair, I don’t necessarily agree with the author’s assessment of John Paul II’s theology of the body. I don’t think that is merely a defense of traditional morality along the lines of St. Augustine. Indeed, one of its major flaws from a theological point of view is that it has no real links to Patristic or scholastic thought, but that is another issue entirely. I would concede that the object of it is more subtle. Because there is a lack of societal coercion in terms of following the Church’s teaching on morality, someone has to come up with personalist or mystical reasons as to why Catholic men and women shouldn’t pop the Pill or attend their son’s gay wedding. Thus, one has to put on a strange game of rhetorical Twister talking about how tab A going into slot B makes you inherently the person you are and is a mystical image of the Trinity ( as oppposed tab A going into slot C, or tab D going into slot B, or tab D…. well, you get the point). One can admire the audacity of this, but Vegas odds say that this is as dead as disco in about a generation or so. Modern people have very, very short attention spans.

Speaking of short attention spans, that is perhaps another reason to not take the “reform of the reform” of the present Pontiff too seriously. Catholicism is now so tied into the Papacy that people are sort of obligated to have the short attention spans cited above. In that sense, one must forget all the liturgical and theological foibles of the last Pontiff and pretend that the Church is now “going in another direction”, though somehow continuous with the direction that it has always been going in. The murmuring about the revisions of the Mass in English come to mind. One person says that the new translation sounds like something done by a man who third language was English. I haven’t read up on it myself, and generally try to avoid the Mass in English altogether, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Perhaps the “Benedictine reform” will be a legitimate return to “business as usual”, if only because it will result again in a time when the clergy made no pretensions of meeting the people where they are. That sort of “love it or leave” attitude is far more normal for a Catholic, and the sort of begrudging assent that I can sort of sign off on. Don’t pretend you want me to like it. I’ll just line up and get my gruel, thank you very much, and live the rest of my life as I see fit.

I would rather have that than a ridiculous cappa magna fetish any day of the week.


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28 responses

1 09 2010
dominic

One thing to be noted is that this notion of “pre-” and “post-” SP traditionalism betrays a certain parochialism in itself. While I agree in general and do not care for some of the notions of some of the “newcomers” the differences in liturgical practices themselves are often only what one sees. I was a trad before it was cool (pre-SP days) and I’ve seen plenty of biretta/hand/cruet kissing, second confiteors, lace, fiddlebacks etc. etc. and not just amongst the ICRSS. However, I do not assert this is/was the way it is/was in all trad Masses throughout the centuries. Too many people universalize their own personal experiences. I know of priests who say the trad Mass but are all about dialog Mass, no biretta/hand kissing, etc. not because of SP or whatever but because that is how they remember the “good old days” in their original suburban Liturgical Movement parish circa 1960.

There is also something else that is present now that really wasn’t too much before-big shot prelates actively supporting these things in very public ways. Its hard to pull off the cappa and all sorts of Pontifical Masses in the pre-SP days unless you have the cajones (not to mention universal pontifical privileges) of someone like Cardinal Stickler. Outside of those big Pontifical Masses and Ordinations, when you are hiding in the proverbial catacombs, and before the proliferation of groups like the FSSP and ICRSS, there isn’t much more than the “Irish sourpuss Mass” that you can do.

As to the TLM vs. the NO, I’d take a silent Low Mass over the “highest” NO if given the choice because as much as I love pomp and baroque fanciness, I’m not an aesthete. My difficulty with the NO is a theological thing. My neo-con friends don’t get that the putting lipstick on a pig “reform-of-the-reform” movement simply cannot fix these fundamental issues.

Which leads to the final point. I think that Trads can reach across barriers and unite with everyone, however, in my own personal experience what happens is that we simply do not speak each other’s language anymore. I’m not talking about the stereotypical Trad problem of moral prudishness combined with conspiracy theory, rather I’m talking about in our philosophical, spiritual, religious etc. language we usually talk past each other. What doesn’t sit well with me and most Neo-Cons is not the “smells and bells” like they always think, but its all the theological underpinnings of their own system corrupted by the nouvelle theologie. We can both agree that “smells and bells” are great, but when we start talking about the fundamentals of the Mass and they start with all the “Well, Jesus is present no matter what kind of Mass it is…” things usually fall apart after that. With the Charismatics, it isn’t their kooky singing, dancing, gushing nonsense that really bothers me or even their often implicit anti-intellectualism but rather that their movement started when some folks went to some heretical prayer meeting and got “baptized in the Holy Spirit” and started “speaking in tongues”. The whole thing just isn’t Catholic, sorry.

1 09 2010
sortacatholic

Quite true, Max. Thanks for pointing out the weakness of my statement.

1 09 2010
Max

I do not wish to join in the flogging, but I will respond briefly to Sorta’s last comment to clear up some apparent misapprehensions.

“Yes, ideally the congregation should read Missals and follow the action at the altar. This isn’t an option for many people. Some struggle with reading; others are more contemplative and prefer to read from prayerbooks or (gasp!) say a rosary….

… An emphasis on participative synchrony through missals and dialogue Masses betrays a liturgical philosophy little different than the ultra-didactic second wave of liturgical reform as embodied in the Novus Ordo. The enforcement of a narrow praxis is the enforcement of a particular ideology…”

I never said that I have a problem with people using prayerbooks or praying the rosary during Mass. Nor do I subscribe to the “ultra-didactic” philosophy described here. On the contrary, I think people should be free to pray privately during Mass – with missals, with prayerbooks, with the rosary, etc. Covering the liturgy with hymns – even those of high aesthetic quality, as in the Deutsche Singmesse – actually does force participative synchrony in a very intrusive way. It prevents people who want to focus more closely on the words of the Mass from being able to do so, and it also makes things harder for people who want to pray privately.

In short, I’m not arguing for a narrow praxis, but people who argue for things like the Singmesse are doing so whether they realize it or not. That’s all I have to say on point.

1 09 2010
sortacatholic

Yes, ideally the congregation should read Missals and follow the action at the altar. This isn’t an option for many people. Some struggle with reading; others are more contemplative and prefer to read from prayerbooks or (gasp!) say a rosary. The sermons at my last church were ghastly and frightening. I read the epistle and Gospel in Greek to distract myself from the spiel. No shame, indeed.

The struggle over “active participation” defines the post-SP struggle between the old Tridentine recusants and the newer ultramontanist arrivals. An emphasis on participative synchrony through missals and dialogue Masses betrays a liturgical philosophy little different than the ultra-didactic second wave of liturgical reform as embodied in the Novus Ordo. The enforcement of a narrow praxis is the enforcement of a particular ideology. A rubrically inexact and mumbled low Mass better defines organic development than a presupposition that minds and emotions can be (re)formed through one-size-fits-all liturgical activity. Perhaps the recent movement towards a Fortescue candyland view of the EF betrays the neo-con/ultramontanist drive to create an ideologically pure church and a confessional (or at least morally righted) state.

Sorry to have flogged this thread to death 😦

31 08 2010
Jared B.

Well, I think that was part of the point of SP: that Catholic priests or parishes are not required to go through any “gatekeepers” of the TLM. That applies equally to liberal bishops who wish the TLM would stay away, and ‘older traditionalist communities’ who may wish they were consulted first. Almost every commentor I’ve read on this blog acknowledges that the motives and methods of those older TLM communities are far from perfect (i.e. there always were agendas), so while some good critique of the new ones is important, “new blood” should still be welcome, precisely because they aren’t making the same assumptions.

I think the fear of getting things wrong, of accidentally looking or acting silly, is a greater threat to tradition (and religion more generally) than learning things from books. There’s nothing very particularly Modern about getting [any aspect of] one’s religion from books when living tradition is all or nearly lost; that goes back to the Kings of Judah and Israel. There is, I think, something specifically Modern and insidious about a fear of being “tacky” — from the Council of Trent to the present, one could categorize many abrogated devotions and practices as boiling down to just that. The disgust with the cappa magna worshippers might be a close cousin to that whole aversion to traditional and/or folk Catholicism, amply described throughout this blog. The insufferable modern wish to “purge” oneself and community from things that strike anybody as superficial or unnecessary, runs thru the heart of every individual no matter how ‘traditional’ or ‘folk’ or ‘conservative’ they want to be.

31 08 2010
Jared B.

Gotcha. Missal of Bl. John XXIII does sound more sensible. Tho I don’t quite get the need to ‘tune out’ if nothing pejorative is meant by the E.F. phrasing. Only thing that I can think of that’s bothersome about that is it reminds one of ‘extraordinary’ ministers of the Eucharist :-p

I’m about 45 min. drive from a FSSP chapter that has Mass every Sunday; I rarely get to go there, I haven’t learned enough about the liturgy yet to know whether it’s ‘sober’ or not, and I likely wouldn’t give a fig even if I were a better connoisseur of liturgy. Most Sundays, I’m grateful to live within a parish [decidedly Charismatic] that doesn’t constantly shove women’s ordination or rainbow sashes down my throat, and most of the time I can make it through a Mass there without grinding my teeth too much. 🙂

31 08 2010
Max

“They — at least the most vocal ones — don’t WANT to win. They’re allergic to winning.”

I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I was never interested in winning – my traditionalism basically ran along the lines of wanting to do my own thing and not be bothered. “Doing my own thing” in this context mainly meaning attending the TLM – I was never interested in the ‘movement’ aspects of traditionalism, partly because there were too many kooks involved and partly because the notion of “winning” in the sense of changing the larger Church always struck me as impossible. In a sense, too, I recoiled at the sectarian aspects of the movement and this kept me from associating too closely with many traditionalists. “Not being bothered” meant being able to attend the TLM without taking too much flak from people who thought it made me a reactionary (which I never was – on the contrary, my political sympathies generally tilted left, which is one reason I was never at home with a lot of Trads) or who would try to wean me from it (including neocon friends who thought I should be satisfied with a high church Novus Ordo).

My personal concern with the approach that many “neo-Caths” take to the TLM is that it seems like they’re basically coopting the liturgy for the sake of their larger ecclesial agenda. It’s not a question of their “joining” the traditionalists that were around before SP – a lot of them bypassed older traditionalist communities entirely. They might have some intellectual awareness of the historical development of Catholic traditionalism since Vatican II, but in practice they often act as though nobody did anything to preserve the TLM until SP. This, I think, can feed the tendency to create a kind of Potemkin Village Catholicism crafted more from books than from actual experience (which also helps to explain how practices like the cappa magna and biretta-kissing have come back, as the people who champion them usually learned of them from books but personally never attended a TLM before SP and thus didn’t have an organic sense of traditional liturgy).

31 08 2010
Max

Sorta,

I did not intend the term “vulgar” to be used pejoratively – I know that a lot of the hymns were actually quite fine and were intended to serve sound catechetical ends.

That being said, I disagree with the catechetical approach that the Deutsche Singmesse implies. I would prefer that the congregation actively participate by following the liturgical action as closely as they can with an accompanying missal rather than singing hymns that paraphrase the liturgical action. I’m fine with sung responses – I think that’s a fine way to encourage active participation.

What I don’t like in general are approaches that make it harder for the congregation to hear the words of the priest – the fact that parts of the Mass are to be recited in a low voice shouldn’t mean that the congregation should be prevented from hearing the priest if they are capable of doing so. I believe that the way to get past the notion of Latin as an “aural amulet” is to get the congregation to focus on what the priest is saying. To my way of thinking, following along in a missal and watching and listening with attention is a better approach to this than singing a hymn that paraphrases the liturgical action.

31 08 2010
Max

“And many Catholics would still be happier with a traditional Mass that doesn’t fit their personal tastes, than the most reverent Novus Ordo Mass possible.”

I actually agree with you there, Jared – any TLM is better than no TLM. As I noted earlier, this was effectively the status quo before SP. I would argue that it’s still the status quo in many places now – in most places, there aren’t enough TLM communities on the ground that people really have a choice of different ‘styles.’ Unless you live in a major metropolitan area, you really don’t have the luxury of being picky.

As for Pope Benedict XVI, the term he uses most in SP to describe the TLM is “the Missal of Bl. John XXIII.” The term “extraordinary form” only appears a couple of times, and not in such a way as to imply that it should be used as the official designation for the liturgy in question. Others took the term and ran with it. The people I tend to tune out are those who would never think to call the TLM anything but the “Extraordinary Form,” because they never knew it by any other name.

31 08 2010
Jared B.

Is it possible to somehow combine charismaticism (is that a word?) with traditionalism? I don’t mean in the mass, but in overall Christian practice.

Yes of course it is. Nothing is more Catholic than a refusal to be sectarian. But of course, then we wouldn’t “count” as real traditionalists. This goes back to what I said earlier about baggage: it isn’t enough to value and love the same things as the clique, you’re expected to hate all the right things too. There is no intrinsic connection between preferring the TLM and believing Charismatics are one step short of being satan-worshippers, but you wouldn’t know it from many of the websites and blogs out there (see Arturo’s comment about the fringe always having too much of the airtime).

Even in this thread has developed a distinction between “pre-SP” vs. “post-SP” traditionalists. If Arturo is correct and the trads have no real hope of winning, then I’m placing the blame squarely with the trads themselves, and not primarily because of anti-intellectualism or a failure of creativity or other factors that are also important. They — at least the most vocal ones — don’t WANT to win. They’re allergic to winning. Other Catholics can, and do, bend over f***ing backwards to accomodate them and even to join them, but it’s just not permitted. If we don’t scorn all the same things and people they scorn, then we’re just “neo-Caths” and always will be.

31 08 2010
The young fogey

I don’t think this is an either-or situation – embrace arstiness to the extreme or settle for anti-aesthetic low liturgy. I think the legitimate liturgical movement (the same one you’ve praised on your own blog, YF) provided a sound alternative to both.

I’m all for traditional high liturgy done well, and I think it can be done well in a way that is neither precious nor minimalistic.

Then we’re reading from the same missal. Thanks!

31 08 2010
sortacatholic

Max: For example, I’ve been to places that basically practice a version of the old “Deutsche Singmesse” – a cousin of the Irish sourpuss, I reckon, insofar as it distracts the congregation with vulgar hymns and actually thwarts those who want to be able to focus on the liturgical action.

The Deutsche Singmesse (and its Polish equivalent) were not vulgar at all. A Singmesse paraphrased the Ordinary at both Low and Sung Mass. The people would sing a vernacular paraphrase of the Gloria while the priest recited it in a low tone; ditto the Credo. Technically vernacular hymnody is verboten at Sung Mass but the Vatican permitted the Austrians, Germans, and Poles to continue their practice out of tradition. It’s also a great catechetical tool. It’d be wonderful of some of the Singmesse tunes could be transposed into English and sung by the congregation at Low Mass. If I were a priest I would heartily encourage this practice.

From what I understand Singmesse parishes often contained congregants skilled at singing. It’s true that much of the German Catholic emphasis on congregational hymnody at Mass derived from similar Lutheran practices. In fact, Catholic congregations often sung Lutheran hymns, and vice versa. Nevertheless, there’s a lot to be said for active participation through sung paraphrases.

The Irish-American custom of singing syrupy sweet Marian hymns set to 19th century ballad tunes is vulgar. That’s a tradition that needs to be firmly kept in the past. Some elderly TLMers thwart moves towards a simple sung Mass because all they knew was the “Irish sung Mass” i.e. a four hymn sandwich.

I have a deep love for the traditional liturgy. I’ve left, however, over the crackpottery and ignorance. Some vernacularization, such as for the lections, is desperately needed. Also, perhaps a Low Mass with sung vernacular paraphrases would help with catechesis. The scandal of the TLM movement is not the liturgy itself. Rather, it’s the willful ignorance of some congregants that paints the stereotype of traditionalism as reactionary. Some reform is needed to reinforce that the Latin of the Mass is not a aural amulet.

31 08 2010
Jared B.

the greater exposure that Catholic traditionalism has received in the last three years has not led to better liturgy in many cases and has actually allowed a lot of bad old practices (on both ends of the ‘bad’ spectrum, high and low) to make an unwelcome comeback.

And many Catholics would still be happier with a traditional Mass that doesn’t fit their personal tastes, than the most reverent Novus Ordo Mass possible.

Goll-ee, if some people have the luxury of being picky about one traditional Mass vs. a traditional Mass in a slightly different style, if THAT is actually the worst thing you have to complain about, I’d say the state of traditional liturgy ain’t doin’ that bad. If that is really the state of things, I’d say it’s doing better than anyone could have hoped for.

BTW Max et al.: does that mean you tune out Pope Benedict XVI, because he uses the phrase “extraordinary form”? Just askin’.

31 08 2010
Max

“For all its problems I’ll take Anglo-Catholic artsiness (‘gaudy and pompous’) over the Irish sourpusses Thomas Day describes who dominate both the American Novus mainstream and the American trad movement because they ran the real old American church.”

First off, I am not Irish (I’m actually Polish, so I have good reason to dislike Irish-American Catholicism) and I actually agree with Day’s critiques. I also don’t have any bones to pick with Anglo-Catholicism, though I don’t feel any affinity with Anglo-Catholics. Basically, I don’t mind them doing their thing as long as I’m free to do my thing.

Secondly, I don’t think this is an either-or situation – embrace arstiness to the extreme or settle for anti-aesthetic low liturgy. I think the legitimate liturgical movement (the same one you’ve praised on your own blog, YF) provided a sound alternative to both.

I should note that the post-SP partisans of the “Extraordinary Form” (a term which I frankly despise – I usually end up tuning out anyone who employs it earnestly) are as guilty of bringing back the “Irish sourpuss” stuff as they are of practicing the “gaudy and pompous.” For example, I’ve been to places that basically practice a version of the old “Deutsche Singmesse” – a cousin of the Irish sourpuss, I reckon, insofar as it distracts the congregation with vulgar hymns and actually thwarts those who want to be able to focus on the liturgical action. This is something I never saw in my years of pre-SP traditionalism but which I’ve seen make a comeback since SP.

I’m all for traditional high liturgy done well, and I think it can be done well in a way that is neither precious nor minimalistic. My fear, though, is that the greater exposure that Catholic traditionalism has received in the last three years has not led to better liturgy in many cases and has actually allowed a lot of bad old practices (on both ends of the ‘bad’ spectrum, high and low) to make an unwelcome comeback.

31 08 2010
The young fogey

For all its problems I’ll take Anglo-Catholic artsiness (‘gaudy and pompous’) over the Irish sourpusses Thomas Day describes who dominate both the American Novus mainstream and the American trad movement because they ran the real old American church.

31 08 2010
Max

“He spoke once of a pontificial high Mass that they put on where the celebrant (I want to say Cardinal Stickler) wore a long cappa magna that almost stretched the length of the nave.”

Yes, it was Cardinal Stickler – the Mass was held in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I remember when it happened, largely because that was the first time I had ever heard of a cappa magna. At the time I was regularly attending an Indult TLM, but in a parish characterized by the kind of liturgical sobriety that you found in the SSPX. In retrospect, I’m glad we didn’t have the “gaudy and pompous” stuff you describe, as it probably would’ve turned me off.

In some ways, I think that “Summorum Pontificum” has changed Catholic traditionalism for the worse. Traditionalism always had its bad apples (the crackpots and conspiracy theorists), but my experience before the motu proprio (I went Trad in the 1990s) was that traditional circles benefitted from a kind of positive elitism – the priests and people who were dedicated to the TLM knew what they were doing and generally did it well and intelligently. “Summorum Pontificum” brought in a lot of people who frankly didn’t know what they were doing, including many Novus Ordo neocons who decided to take up the Latin Mass because they thought it was what the Pope wanted them to do.

One of the things that the post-SP newcomers have done is brought in a lot of “gaudy and pompous” aesthetics, fussing about things like cappa magnas and fancy vestments in a way that I didn’t see much of before the motu proprio. (In the “bad old days,” we were often happy just to have access to the old Mass – aesthetics necessarily took a back seat.) They’ve also brought back obscure practices that are as tacky as they are clericalist – e.g. servers who not only kiss the priest’s hand during the Mass (which itself is something I never encountered pre-SP) but also kiss his biretta. This is the sort of nonsense that occasionally leads me to pine for the pre-SP days – maybe the catacombs weren’t so bad after all.

31 08 2010
Leah

Arturo said, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the future of Christianity globally is charismatic, ecstatic, and trans-doctrinal.”

Is it possible to somehow combine charismaticism (is that a word?) with traditionalism? I don’t mean in the mass, but in overall Christian practice. For example, the photos on the FSSP and ICKSP sites show some of the missions in Africa. Based soley on these pictures, the viewer is led to think that the African traditionalists are “just like us” but with darker skin and different clothes. But what is it like for these people like when they aren’t at mass? These sites don’t really elaborate on this. I would be suprised if the villagers weren’t engaged in some kind of charismatic-inspired practices when the priests aren’t looking. It’s not mentioned what kind of tribes the priests are working among, but since they are in West Africa I would think that the people would still be retaining some of that region’s traditions of dancing and drumming. There’s no reason that I can think of why someone couldn’t go to a FSSP/ICKSP sponsored Latin Mass on Sunday and then go to an charismatic meeting organized by the village on Monday.

31 08 2010
Arturo Vasquez

It can’t be emphasized enough how small such sub-groups of Catholics really are numerically. The problem is, they seem to have money and a lot of computers, and compared to average Joe Blow in the pew, they move a lot more ecclesial mountains than the inert Catholic masses. Perhaps that is what will be so farcical about it all: while “old school Catholicism” was the default religion of millions of people fifty to sixty years ago, its Potempkin village manifestation will be a sort of ship in the bottle.

Case in point: I go to one of the two approved old Latin Masses in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Our Mass is at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, so as not to disturb the “normal” Catholics, and at most forty to fifty people might show up on a good day. But between those serving and those in the schola (including some seminarians for the archdiocese doing double duty), we can have as many as ten people serving and singing. At 7:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning! I don’t mind it, since I’d be up anyway and I hate the Mass in English. But why can you find websites where people talk about the “extraordinary form” (I hate that term and avoid it like the Plague) as if it were the Second Coming? Maybe one day it will be the default Catholicism of a self-selected elite, but to think that it will somehow take hold of the masses like it once did, or inspire the depth of creativity and thought that it once did, all I have to say again is good luck with that. It is like expecting the poetry of Rumi and the philosophy of Averroes to be produced from the ranks of Osama bin Laden and the Saudi royal family. Fundamentalisms are seldom fruitful.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the future of Christianity globally is charismatic, ecstatic, and trans-doctrinal. Case in point, Glenn Beck’s Washington spectacle that no doubt is causing many “good Catholics” to grab their pitch forks to seek out the God-haters. They have more in common with the growing church in Africa than we care to admit, if only because both are radical breaks from Christianity as it once was. I for one will continue to be my stalwart, curmudgeon self, and continue to cling to old-school Catholicism, picking from old folk Catholicism and the more official variety as needed. I have no illusions that we’re going to win, but if they want my Liber Usualis, they are going to have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands.

31 08 2010
sortacatholic

Leah, thanks for telling us about “Sankofa”. Renting that.

As for typecasting the clerical fashion club (paging Fellini): the blatant homophobic/homoerotic tension within the priesthood transcends the subtypes of the LGBT community. Mark Jordan’s controversial “Silence of Sodom”, though academically problematic (few citations, lots of hearsay), nails this phenomenon. A view through his anthropological lens crisply focuses the contradiction between the Vatican’s feigned desire to “butchen up” the priesthood and the popular tat fetish splashed across NLM. In Jordan’s view, homiletic and epistolary condemnations of homosexuality merely underscore the trials of a heavily homosexual clergy forced to preach their own non-existence. You are entirely correct that much of the nominal Catholic and non-Catholic world intuitively understands this contradiction. The emperor has no clothes? The rectory has no vestments!

Leah: The Church is just one more voice trying to convince people in the marketplace of ideas, so stop acting like it’s the only one.

Book club selection: “The Divine Supermarket” by Malise Ruthven. It’s out of print, so you might want to try a university library. Ruthven travels Reagan’s America in an RV to demonstrate the dysfunctional functionality of American religious pluralism.

31 08 2010
Jared B.

Thank you Arturo for your reply.
My last thought on the cappa-magna obsessors: recognizing that they are already a tiny minority in the Church, I’d venture that only a small minority among them actually want ‘clericalism’ back. They’ve suffered years post-Vatican II of being given the impression from architecture, vestments, liturgy & music (or just told outright) that there is something ‘wrong’ with beauty inside their churches, that they’re probably just grateful to see that it isn’t a capital offense in all places. Ditto the people cheering for increases in priestly & religious vocations, I don’t think is principally about clericalism at all; people do want access to the sacraments in the future. I don’t lose much sleep over a minority within a minority who do consciously desire a return for whatever ‘clericalism’ means to them.

Flailing fish: yeah definitely a temptation, tho my motivation is less Stockholm and more PTSD, to stretch a metaphor. I [a convert] have spent fully half my years as a Catholic almost exclusively in the company of NCR-readers who fit every possible liberal / cafeteria stereotype; so much for fellowship. I couldn’t love the same things they loved or hate the same things they hated. That’s half my problem with traditionalist Catholicism: I love most of the same things they love, but chafe at feeling required to hate all the same things they seem to hate (new ecclesial movements, WYD, JPII, Balthasar, etc. etc). If I fit into a ‘conservative’, neo-, or ‘pop-Cath’ category, it’s only because they’re the only ones who could take me. Their brand of Catholicism seems to have something to do with avoiding sin and cultivating virtue; I can wrap my head around that better than litanies of who to scorn. True, many of them borrow the baggage of the American religious right, but plenty don’t. No one has yet made a flavor of punch that doesn’t taste wrong to me, so while I’m loosely identifying with “Generation JPII” and occasionally read some pick-me-up articles on Nat’l Catholic Register, I have space to breathe. Maybe in my finer moments even to love God and my neighbor, two things I think are impossible the way the world is today without finding some things to be happy / grateful / excited about, a little enthusiasm…which I’ll grant also does much of the harm in the world, but cynicism hasn’t saved many souls lately. I am just worried about the Church insofar as anybody in the future will desire to be a part of it.

31 08 2010
Arturo Vasquez

“Maybe I’m reading too much sarcasm into that ‘good luck with that'”

I think you are. I have to speak only from experience and say that I think there is a lot of naivete regarding what the “Church of the past” was like and how it functioned. Again, many of you are on the outside looking in, and I have been on the inside and looking out. But maybe things won’t get that bad, maybe we won’t have a bunch of emotionally repressed sociopaths running around in cassocks, diva bishops in too much lace, and nuns who were bitter and undereducated taking it out on their charges. In fact, I know that we won’t have those things. Marx once wrote echoing Hegel that things in history occur, as it were, twice: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. The problem is, we are so eager to see a show, we don’t care what type of show it is.

Jared B. is tempted by the “flailing fish” approach to truth. It doesn’t matter what it’s doing, as long as it’s moving. Is enthusiasm better than cynicism, action better than inaction, “something” better than nothing? Perhaps. All I know is that cynicism has never actively killed anyone, and enthusiasm’s victims can be counted in the millions. This blog is all about not drinking the punch. There are many, many blogs dedicated to flavors of punch in all the colors of the rainbow. If you can’t get your spiritual nourishment out of your duties of state, the joys of family, a good meal, a ballet, a symphony, a trip to the museum, and, yes, even the “fellowship” of your humble “worship space”, the Internet is nowhere to go to look for it. I don’t provide that, and I don’t pretend to.

Again, I am just worried about the Church only insofar as the life that I and my children will have to lead in it. As I have written in the past:

For if all we can have in the Church is a cadre of experts who have such-and-such a level of assent in order to ride the Catholic train, then I would really like to get off now. For such an institution could not by definition encompass the total reality of human experience, and in this sense it has ceased to be Catholic. We will be left with a group of happy guitar-strumming Papists wearing John Paul II tee-shirts, giggling over how sexy Catholicism is while apotheosizing the heterosexual missionary position as the most profound human image of God. I don’t think I need to say much more on how bizarre that would seem even to most “orthodox” Catholics. And if that is the only way to make Catholicism a “relevant religion” again, then I am all for Catholicism becoming a pristine if outdated museum piece to be gawked at by agnostic tourists.

With people obsessing over cappa magnas, I have to say at times that we are almost there.

30 08 2010
Dave

“Apparently, no one has told the self-appointed guardians of Church masculinity about the bear subculture.”

Leah, you just made me spit my drink out.

30 08 2010
Jared B.

On the ‘cappa magna’ fetish. I think it’s about as traditional as people’s obsession with fashion overall, which Chaucer satired; for most people who’re into that sort of thing, it’s the latest dress worn at yadda-yadda movie awards, and for a few it’s a cool cape at a pontifical Mass. It’s important to remember in either case the majority don’t have that itch for flashiness at all, and would rather just find out who won the movie award and/or get home from Mass in time to see if the Packers won. :]

…rhetoric from conservative and traditionalist Catholics that a return to clericalism is the wave of the future. The convents with the most “traditional” habits are bursting at the seams, the most “conservative” dioceses get the most vocations, and so forth. …Not sure if that’s going to work, but good luck with that.”

“Going to” work? If the increases in religious and priestly vocations are not a sign that it’s already working, what is? Whether our own kids and grandkids keep and pass on the faith, yeah I know; but an increase in vocations is a present good, for the entire Church, not just what NCR wants to label ‘clericalism’ (to NCR, one gets the impression that the mere existence of vocations is too much clericalism for their tastes). Why is it working at all—it’s just another fad that some young people are following? Maybe; it won’t take but a few years down the road to find that out. Without getting into all that ‘where the Spirit is moving’ stuff, another explanation is that our traditions have substance, in other words there is some ‘power’ inherent to them (AV’s neoplatonic expositions have helped me immensely in understanding why & how that just might exactly be the case). If we can’t at least admit that possibility, then aren’t we sliding back into nominalism, and what argument could a traditionalist / conservative bring up against the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ liberals who were so articulate in their justifications for massacring those very traditions?? If I’m going to give anyone the benefit of the doubt, I’m going to give it to the ones presently producing some fruit, and let time and results decide if this is all ‘a work of the Spirit’ as the conservatives do insist it is.

*rant alert*
Sigh. Just when I think I can safely declare that I agree with something on this blog 😉 I always get hit on the head with these 2×4 nonsequiturs; always this incessant need to call success failure and diagnose spiritual health as sickness. I give AV credit that he does it to the traditionalists as much as the traditionalists do it to the ‘neo-Caths’, but I just can’t get on board with that. I guess what it boils down to is this: I am more willing to have a little enthusiasm (a venial sin in the eyes of traditionalists of all religions and ideologies) and then be proved wrong, and even look like a complete idiot, than to stew in a cynicism that sees every conceivable remedy to the ills of the Church as a poison that can only make things worse. Maybe I’m reading too much sarcasm into that “good luck with that”, but it’s still a pattern on this blog; other writers / bloggers who by all appearances are saying things remarkably similar to things AV has said, are treated (by commentors or often by AV himself) with more scorn than those with opposing views! They’re too suburban / First World / middle-class / postmodern / whatever, so whatever they say could only be motivated by naïveté or pride.

30 08 2010
Jared B.

I never understood the need to translate the Canon anyway, since it wasn’t even audible in the pre-Vatican II Mass (and AFAIK, no Conciliar or post-conciliar doc actually ordered it to be made audible tho I could be wrong). If that liturgical norm had remained (inaudible prayers), there never would have been any point in having an “official” translation; printers of Missals — publishing companies none of whom could claim to speak for the whole Church and all of whom can get a nihil obstat — could publish different translations just like printers of the Bible do, and Catholics could buy whichever they prefer, more or less literal. Some (most?!) liturgical arguments are better off diffused than settled.

30 08 2010
Leah

Article #1: Arturo said, “Such militant cultural posturing does a disservice to our ancestors in that it fails to acknowledge the complexities of the origins of their beliefs.”
This reminds me of my reactions to the movie “Sankofa” by Ethopian film maker Haile Gerima. It’s basically an Afro-centric film about slavery, that states that black people are perpetual foreigners in the US and need to turn back to Africa for their roots. It’s a pretty anti-Catholic film too, probably because Italy invaded Ethiopia twice and brought in the clergy to clean up both times. Consequently, the veneration of the white Virgin Mary becomes a metaphor for black self-hatred and the plantation priest isn’t just racist, he’s psychotic. That aside, my main issue with the film is that it’s riddled with historical inaccuracies. To go through them would be an essay in and of itself, but it’s obvious that Gerima didn’t do any research about American slavery and that as an Ethiopian he has contempt for American black culture. So much for pan-African brotherhood.

Article #2: A couple of years ago when the Vatican reiterated its ban on gay priests, there was a political cartoon that depicted one cardinal saying to another, “Does this lace make me look fat?” or something to that effect. This cartoon is illustrative of a fact that is apparent to those on the outside, but not to those liturgical porn fans on the inside; the sight of grown men swooning about lacy albs, cappa magnas, papal tiaras and the like comes off as being really weird. This is particularly so when the men in question tend to be self-professed “manly men” who claim that they are trying to “butch up” the priesthood/Church. Apparently, no one has told the self-appointed guardians of Church masculinity about the bear subculture.

Article #3: These days there are many different schools of thought when it comes to sex; the libertarian view, the polymorous view, the mainstream Protestant view, the evangelical view, etc. All of these views have books, blogs, non-profits and other venues explaining why their opinion is the best, both in terms of societal impact and in terms of personal satisfaction. The Church is just one more voice trying to convince people in the marketplace of ideas, so stop acting like it’s the only one.

30 08 2010
sortacatholic

Arturo: I haven’t read up on it [the new translation] myself, and generally try to avoid the Mass in English altogether, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Perhaps the “Benedictine reform” will be a legitimate return to “business as usual”, if only because it will result again in a time when the clergy made no pretensions of meeting the people where they are.

Good observation. I have read the ordinary of the new translation and some of the prefaces alongside Missale Romanum 1970. The new translation of the Roman Canon is vastly superior to the current paraphrase in one respect: there is a semblance of syntactical resemblance that is utterly lacking in the 1967 version. Yet the new translation’s slavish adherence to Latin nested clausal subordination has created a text that many people will struggle mightily to understand.

Although I admire any attempt to paraphrase a 6th century Latin anaphora into idiomatic 20th century English, the failure of both the 60s-70s paraphrase and the 2000’s second edition to impart substantive meaning suggests that the Canon should have remained in Latin. The liturgical movement’s difficulty with the Canon was never truly Latin, vernacular, or pneumatology. Rather the clash between the desire for liturgical didacticism and the inability to twist theurgy to didactic ends complicated the desire for a Mass readily apprehensible by all in attendance. The maintenance of Latin for the Canon would have destroyed the illusion that the reformed Mass blurred the clerical-lay ritual boundary.

The re- and re-remixing of an English “translation” of the Canon illustrates the brief facade of peri-conciliar “relevance” that has been partially subordinated under another facade of liturgical clericalism. I doubt that even the the most clerical of cardinals will ever find Stockholm again. Neither the traditionalist* generation of a voluntary Stockholm Syndrome or a strident liturgical didacticism will steer the nominal Catholics horses back into obedient holding pattern.

*Why can’t Catholicism have a term similar to frum that encompasses liturgical traditionalism, pietism, and inter-sectarian segregation? So frustrating!

30 08 2010
The young fogey

1. High five.

2. and 3. I don’t necessarily agree – for example, coming to the faith from Anglicanism via Anglo-Catholicism of course the clerical and æsthetic are big parts of my approach – but I hear you, which is why I’m not as big a fan of NLM (the Big Blog of Clerical Porn) as one might think.

30 08 2010
M.Z.

The convents with the most “traditional” habits are bursting at the seams, the most “conservative” dioceses get the most vocations, and so forth.

I thought this was a great thing myself until I started thinking about it more. If you substitute fad for some of the words, you get an eerie and ironic sentence. There is after all, nothing conservative about subscribing to a fad. And while I confess to not understanding a lot of the older sisters, I have come to appreciate that they too were trying to return to a tradition, specifically the one where they weren’t underpaid social workers and teachers. Alas, it is near impossible to have tradition without continuity.

One person says that the new translation sounds like something done by a man who third language was English.

While I haven’t read too much on it myself, I concur with the sentiment. I understand folks that obsess over forms, and I might even do it myself at times, but you still have to deal with people in the end. I have come to despair over the ability of ‘education’ to right wrongs. People, probably because they are desperate for solutions, really want to believe that trinkets like “consubstantial with the Father” are going to convert Little Johnny into that uber-Catholic we always knew he could be. But the Church and the not-for-profit sector that largely make up Catholic media and advocacy are simply too detached from ordinary people to recognize their aloofness. Reading IRS Form 990s of your favorite groups and seeing 6-figure salaries helps explain a lot. But what do I know? I changed the channel once I heard Archbishop Fulton Sheen drone on today about the dangers of communism. That was of course done in the 50s, the height of America’s economic imperialism.

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